Early in the first novel in Alexander McCall Smith's No.1 Ladies Detective Agency series, an older man speaking of his early days working in the mines of South Africa says this:
"They taught us Funagalo, which is the language used for giving orders underground. It is a strange language... which is good for telling people what to do. There are many words for push, take, shove, carry, load, and no words for love, or happiness, or the sounds which birds make in the morning."
I am by nature an optimist. I see the proverbial glass at least half full. It is hard for me to see the bad in people. Even after 19 years practicing law and thousands of depositions, I tend to believe what people say to me. Perhaps that is a weakness, but I don't think so.
It can be a challenge to be an optimist. My uncle is dying. In a quick review of updated status reports on Facebook tonight, I discovered that two of my friends have lost family members in the last two days. As I have blogged before, way too many of my friends are going through or have just gone through divorces. Like everyone else, I have lost a lot in the recession of the last months. We are at war. My church stands on the verge of potentially being disfellowshiped by our national convention over an issue that is neither doctrinal nor necessary.
And I have it good. Many of you can readily cite a list of reasons it is hard for you to be an optimist that is much longer and more debilitating than mine.
Still, I long for the words that express love and happiness and the sounds that birds make in the morning.
I know plenty of folks who speak their version of Funagalo. They are at work, where nobody does anything worthy of receiving a compliment. They can be found on the internet or the radio, where they preach gloom and doom. Sadly, they are at church, where differences and disagreements dominate the conversation and things simply can never be like they used to be.
Perhaps I am naive. Maybe I miss the forest for the trees. But I think there is much that is wonderful around us. I have met only one person in my life in whom I could find no good, and I suspect that was my failing and a result of a rather limited amount of time spent with him.
I remember a conversation with a close friend who lamented over lunch how terrible things are in the world, how they are continually getting worse. I was flabbergasted. This came from a Christian leader. Of course I see what is happening to our culture, and yes, I see many manifestations of sin and evil around us. But God is good all the time. God is at work all the time.
The coverage of our current economic problems that compares today's climate to the Great Depression shows an amazing historic myopia. As hard as the current economic crisis has hit - and it is a crisis and it assuredly has hit hard - the standard of living today is embarrassingly luxurious in comparison to that of the Depression. Walk through a Best Buy or a car lot and then ask yourself if life today is anything like the economic times of the thirties.
Birds still make those sounds in the morning. Love and happiness are everywhere. God loves you and me, in spite of you and me.
Let's speak a little less Funagalo.