The Beauty of Positive Thinking

Last weekend, I painted a mural in the rain – and it was awesome.

That’s how I tell the story, at least. There are those who might say that I tried to paint a mural but it rained and ruined everything, but I think my version is much better.

I’m a pretty serious optimist. I sometimes joke that my rose-colored glasses are bulletproof. The downtown mural project required me to tap deep reserves of mental rainbows, but we got there. My fellow art-appreciating, main-street-cherishing, small-town-loving cheerleaders and I willed that thing into existence through a mixture of positive thinking and sheer stubbornness.

I firmly believe that just about anything is possible when you harness that combination of traits.

While my own commitment to the powers of positive thinking are pretty strong, I may have met my match in the artist who was heading up the mural project. Andee has me beat for cheerful outlook and complete willingness to go with the flow. I’ve done enough art activities with kids to blanche at the thought of turning them loose on a public art project – and if you’ve ever seen a three-year-old wield a paint brush, you’ll understand why – but Andee was totally unfazed. She welcomed all-comers to contribute to her creative vision, never doubting their abilities.

Outfitted in paint-spattered overalls, a signature red bandana, and a giant smile, Andee poured paint, passed out brushes, and pointed the kids to the wall. The opportunity to paint on a wall with parental approval made them absolutely giddy – or maybe it was the cookies being passed out by the building’s grandfatherly owner. In any case, the joy was palpable.

It wasn’t just kids painting with gusto, either. A steady stream of adults showed up on their own, eager to make their mark, and I’ll tell you a secret: it was a grown woman who painted the dog pink. Another grown-up added yellow and red sprinkles to the teal blue donut, while just below her, a pair of small boys very carefully decorated the petals of a flower, their tiny brows furrowed with concentration.

The Eeyores of the world (bless their hearts) probably wouldn’t even have tried to paint – the sky looked grim from the moment we started – but a tidal wave of community enthusiasm carried the day. Even as the first drops fell, more people kept arriving, looking to be part of something big and beautiful and courageous. My favorite painters were a pair of elderly gentlemen in wheelchairs, accompanied by their caregivers. The crowds parted to allow them to wheel up to the wall and paint with unsteady hands. A paint spill on the ground left an indelible mark on the tires of one wheelchair as it passed through – a memento of a grand adventure.

Eventually it rained for real, the mist gradually gaining momentum until it coalesced into a soaking downpour. And even then, as we huddled beneath the tent and grimaced as the colors began to run a bit in the areas where the paint was the wettest, more people drove by. They honked and waved and rolled down their windows to inquire when we’d be starting up again. Sadly, the rain refused to let up all weekend and we were forced to postpone completion.

Some people might have looked at the wall at the end of the day and seen a disorganized riot of colors, damaged by the rain. I saw the love and blessing of 120 people and the promise of more good things to come.

So to my fellow optimists – here’s to us! We believe that the world is beautiful and we’re obstinate enough to make it so.

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