For many years I have spent my summer vacation on a small Maine island. I became good friends with Charlotte, the original owner of the cottage. She was a bright, alert, witty and with-it woman, a fun person to be with. We developed an early summer ritual. When she would see a light in my cottage, meaning that my family and I were there, she would drop in and we would get caught up on each other’s lives.
One year, when she was 89 and we had finished our annual summer chat, I walked her to her car, a black VW Beetle. She started the engine and was about to drive off when she lowered her window and asked, “Arthur, do you have any special projects this summer?”
I said, “Yes. I plan to do some writing on attitude.”
She then said, “Arthur, attitude is everything,” and zoomed off.
That declaration engraved itself on my consciousness. It is a profound truth. I realized that if I had heard it from a 40- or 50-year-old person, I might have just passed it off. But when it came from an 89-year-old woman who was bright, alert, with-it and witty, a woman who had buried two husbands and a daughter and whose family wealth was lost in the Great Depression of the 1930s, I had to pay attention to what she said. She had many reasons to have a dark and cynical attitude, but she didn’t. She was almost wildly positive.
I learned that attitude is something we choose. Somewhere in our human journey we make the choice about what attitude we will have. I learned that no one can force us to adopt a particular attitude. Human beings can be cajoled or manipulated or forced to think in a certain way. No one can make us choose an attitude.
I learned that it is the one area where we have absolute control. Think about it.
As I have studied the subject and reflected on my own history and shifts in my own attitudes, I have become aware of the influence of St. Paul and especially what he wrote to the Philippians. He said that he had learned how to get along in any situation, whether he had a lot or a little, peace or burdens, and that he could do all things through Christ, who gave him the strength.
Attitude is everything. If it isn’t everything, it is very close. Certainly it determines the quality and the happiness in our lives.