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A Grad Student’s Reflection: Optimista Vagyok

By Kevin Earl

 Everyone needs words to live by, philosophies that guide their choices. Christian Frederick Nielsen Twede, my great, great, great grandfather, had his rules for the day that he recorded in his journal in 1887, which I included four years ago in a blog post about New Year’s resolutions. Some of his rules or philosophies include “Keep your tongue in check,” “Consider the effect of every action before doing it,” “Consider that others do not look on things as you do and are different from yourself and can be right although opposite to you in many things,” and “Remember you are never alone. Therefore, do nothing that you would not do in the presence of angels.” Another of my ancestors, my great grandfather Stephen Roy Boswell, had a favorite poet, Edgar A. Guest, whose poem “My Creed” shares similar thoughts and words to live by.

I’ve thought about sharing my personal life philosophies for a while, but hesitated not thinking anyone would find them interesting since they divert from my usual topics of travel adventures. However, now I feel inspired to share. Over my vastly young life of 30 years I’ve had many experiences that helped develop my life philosophies. I’ve seen things and learned things that led me to live a certain way. Maybe you’ll find some inspiration in a few of my “rules for the day” to guide you on your path.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

You may recognize my first philosophy since I borrowed it from the late beloved children’s author Dr. Seuss. In his story “Horton Hears a Who,” Horton the elephant goes on a quest to protect the people of Whoville that live on a speck of dust that he rescued after it floated by and he heard cries for help from the near invisible particulate. Others in the jungle called Horton crazy and attacked him as he tried to save the Whos of Whoville. However, the pachyderm continued in his quest no matter the obstacle because “a persons a person, no matter how small.”

The more I’ve travelled the world, the more I’ve come to see the truth and wisdom in this simple moral. Everywhere I go I find nice people and mean people, helpful people and selfish people, smart people and challenged people. Regardless of cultural differences or languages being incomprehensible, people are people. We all have hopes and dreams. We all have good days and bad days. We all want to be appreciated and loved.

I believe we are all children of a loving Father in Heaven with divine potential to be great not just in this life but in the eternities. Each person deserves to be treated with love and respect. As I recently learned from Kevin Hall’s book “Inspire” the Indian greeting Namaste encapsulates this love and respect for everyone’s innate, divine potential. I strive to live each day with this philosophy, to treat each person with respect and dignity. I am not perfect, far from it, but choose to look at people with trust in their goodness. I choose to look at others with an attitude of not knowing what struggles they’ve encountered in life and knowing that we all have had obstacles, so why not reach out and lift instead of push away and drown.

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Just because something is done or has always been done one way does not mean it is the best or the right way to do it.

This is similar to what my ancestor wrote as one of his “rules for the day,” but I wasn’t yet familiar with his life philosophies when I began to understand its value. Looking at life with eyes open to learning helps us see that sometimes things can be done better or differently. Often we get caught up in routine and habit to the point that when something else presents itself we often dismiss it as wrong or incorrect. We even dismiss the individuals who proposed the idea.

For example, you begin a new job and see that a process could be improved or maybe the culture is just different from what you are used to. When you question you are told that’s how it has always been done. Eventually, you conform to this way of doing things and the routine is engrained in yet another generation of the company. This is not always bad, but many times it is detrimental to the organization since it will not innovate or improve by doing what it has always done.

Sometimes those habits and customs are there for a reason, but if no one knows why that is then it is purely just because. That is no way to live. Instead, we should open our eyes and minds to new ideas that present themselves and seek understanding for why things are the way they are. Even if the new idea isn’t better than what we already know, we have learned why what we already do is better. Many times though we will learn that it is just different and still just as effective.

A perfect example of this are politicians. Many politicians want the same thing – to better the lives of their constituents. But, as we see from the constant feuding of today’s political atmosphere, everyone wants to do it his or her own way. In many cases they won’t even listen to anyone else’s ideas because they believe theirs is the best. When in all actuality if they listen to each other they might learn ways to combine their ideas and come up with solutions that are better than any one of their individual thoughts. This isn’t just the case of politicians but those of diverse political stances. If you were to ask individual citizens, most would probably end up saying the same things as what they want for the nation, their neighbors and families in the big picture. But if you read the vitriol that permeates the web’s political conversations, you’ll find that everyone else is wrong and anyone who doesn’t agree is an idiot that want’s the world to go to hell. If we try to understand the other perspective, we may come to respect the person without having to accept their point of view.

To live this philosophy we must have humility. We must be willing to listen and not prejudge the thoughts, ideas and opinions of others. We must not think of our response before we understand what is said. Even if we are at the top, we must be willing to listen and accept those at the bottom.

Just because something is done or has always been done one way does not mean it is the best or the right way to do it.

“Optimista vagyok” (I am optimistic)

Ten years ago, I was living in Hungary serving as a missionary. While working in Vac, a small city north of Budapest on the Danube River, I met a family. The father worked in a forklift factory and was a lay minister in our small congregation. I noticed one Sunday at a meeting something written with tape on the inside of his briefcase. In two or three inch letters he wrote “Optimista vagyok” or in English “I am optimistic.”

When I asked him about it he said it was to remind him to stay optimistic no matter what came his way. It was his philosophy to look on the bright side of life and not be bogged down by the struggles that faced his little family. I was inspired by him as I watched him build a house brick by brick for his family to live in with what little free time he had on Saturdays or after work. I was inspired as I saw him serve his fellowmen and lift them up with his positive attitude. He encouraged me to look to the good in life.

One of my mother’s favorite movies is “Pollyanna.” The story presents us with a young girl who is orphaned and has to live with her aunt who is very wealthy and basically controls the town she lives in. Pollyanna quickly sees that many people in the town aren’t very happy. They are bitter and spend their days complaining with a scowl on their face. She teaches those she meets a game she learned from her father called the glad game. The premise of the game is to see the good in life and be grateful for it. For example, instead of getting a doll from a charity donation when she was younger she got a pair of crutches. Being disappointed her father pointed out that she should be glad and grateful she didn’t need the crutches because others did. This taught her to look for the good in life instead of focusing on the bad. Pollyanna inspires everyone in the town to be optimistic so much that when she has a tragic accident and is finding it hard to see any good in the world they lift her and help her see the light once again by playing the glad game.

When I left that small Hungarian town and moved to Sopron, on the other end of the country, my friend gave me his work tie that has little forklifts on it, and whenever I look at it or wear it I remember the two words written on the inside of his briefcase “Optimista vagyok.” I took this on as a personal life philosophy. I’ve found that life is always better when optimism guides the way. When we look up we see the light; when we look down we see shadows. Light leads the way and lets us see what is coming while shadows darken the path distracting us with every little obstacle in the here and now. Let us look for the good in life and embrace it. Let us find the good in others and encourage it. Let us be optimistic!

“Optimista vagyok” (I am optimistic)

These are three of my life philosophies. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to look for the good in life, treat others with respect, and look for opportunities to learn and grow.

Do you have any “rules of the day” – any philosophies that guide your choices in life? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

About the author


3 Responses to A Grad Student’s Reflection: Optimista Vagyok
  1. […] You may not know, but I’m currently a graduate student at Grand Canyon University. My most recent professor, Dr. Nicholas Markette, hosts a website for “thinkers” to share ideas, “cross-pollinate their thinking and to see the world from different angles.” The website boasts quite a list of contributors whose credentials range from leading multi-million dollar organizations to being published academics holding PhD’s. Suffice it to say, I never thought my ideas would be shared along side theirs. However, I was published on Gavriel’s Horn today! My post is about life philosophies and three of mine in particular. Let me know what you think after you’ve given it a read: […]

  2. Lisa Earl
    May 8, 2014 | 7:35 am

    Great article Kevin. These are inspiring words that all can benefit from. In our everyday lives we all have the opportunity to touch the lives of others. By creating our own code to live by or by adopting some, or all, of the tenets listed above, our interactions can be more positive and uplifting. The result being a happier people and a more peaceful world.

  3. Yves
    March 10, 2015 | 10:02 pm

    Thanks for the great an uplifting story. I start the day by trying to fulfill my life’s mission. Within this is (1) helping others do better (2) teach and show love. Please understand those are the overarching items. There are many smaller items that go into making them a reality. I’m glad I read your article, now I can relate my daily goals with “rules of the day.”


    By the way, Hungry is a wonderful place. I went there many years ago. I’ve been trying to talk my wife into going to there.