My late Grandmother, White Pearl, was one of 200,000 Koreans in Russia who suffered the brutal forceful deportation by Stalin in 1937. She remained loving, compassionate, and generous forever. She noticed that during the crisis people really band together to become a part of something bigger than themselves.
As a child, I loved sitting on the porch with my Grandfater to stargaze. I had always admired his optimism, and I missed being with him most of all. He didn't make a particular effort to be optimistic—he was graced with optimism. He looked on the bright side of everything.
My grandparents, like many other Korean families, were exiled to Chechnya in 1953. Halfway there, my grandfather was struck by a train. My father remembered the enormity of the train, how the wheels were taller than he was at age seven. The bolts were as big as his fist. The wheel cut off my grandfather's left arm. He was unconscious for weeks, and the family prepared for his funeral. But he survived! "I am not disabled," my grandfather told the doctor in the hospital when he regained consciousness. "This is just a little inconvenience."
He refused a disability pension, and when he finally arrived in Chechnya, he built a collective farm, and then was offered a position as a senior agriculturist and awarded with the Order of the Badge of Honor for his work. White Pearl remembers that he never complained, continuing to work long hours. As one of the best senior agriculturists, he was selected to go to Moscow every year to visit an exhibit of national economic achievements. His team became one of the top producing teams in his region.
Like my grandfather, optimists are can-do-it people. They focus on solutions, not problems. Optimists think about what could be done differently next time, what lesson did I learn here—rather than what and why it happened to me, and who is to blame. When we begin to identify every lesson we learn in every difficulty we face, we begin to move ahead faster than ever before.
We all have to make decisions. Optimism can be mastered. Optimism is a choice.
Change does not happen overnight; it happens in small increments, when we decide to make a change. One day, one hour, one minute, one moment at a time. It is in your hands.