Dancing in the Rain

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Jul 11, 2009

"Life isn't about waiting for the storms to pass. It's about learning to dance in the rain."

Rodney Dangerfield made a living out of presenting himself as a pessimist. It all started when he was asked to be a last minute replacement on The Ed Sullivan Show and he told this "no respect" joke, "I get no respect. I played hide-and-seek, and they wouldn't even look for me." 

Dangerfield would go on to say things like, "I told my doctor I broke my arm in two places. He told me to keep out of those places." And, "I tell ya when I was a kid, all I knew was rejection. My yo-yo, it never came back." He died in 2004 but he is still remembered for his self-deprecating humor and his famous line, "I don't get no respect." 

But it is one thing to look at life as a comedian who specializes in pessimistic monologues; it is another thing to actually look at life like that. Some people just seem to have a knack for seeing the cloud in front of the silver lining. 

Have you ever heard people debate the differences between optimism and pessimism? We all can have a tendency to look differently at the amount of water in the glass. In those discussions there is usually someone who says I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist; I am a realist. Each one looks at life differently. 

Parkinson's Disease has not shaken Michael J. Fox's optimism. He was only 30 years old in 1991 when he received the sobering diagnosis of this degenerative disease of the brain and central nervous system that often impairs motor skills, speech and other functions. Ever since he went public in 1998, we have ached for him and his family. 

But in spite of his battle, Fox maintains an amazingly positive view on life. In fact, a few months ago his "Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (A Personal Journey of Hope)" captured this perspective from people around the world. 

Ronald Reagan was known for being an optimistic politician but perhaps he will be most remembered for his courageous public reflections on his personal battle with Alzheimer's Disease. He told us, "I now begin the journey into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead." 

Here in our Phoenixville neighborhood we have another such hero in Lara Phillips. With her parents, Rick and Amy Phillips, she is facing a battle no young person should ever have to face. On January 23, 2008, six days after her 18th birthday, doctors discovered a fast growing, highly malignant tumor. 

Each time I read their submissions on CaringBridge I realize they are portraying qualities we all profoundly admire. In her 2008 Phoenixville High School address she spoke these words of hope and perseverance, "Life is fighting for what you want, what you believe in." 

In some places of the world we Americans have a reputation for being whiners. When we really stop to think about the abundance on our grocery shelves and the ease with which we travel and communicate and live a good part of our day to day lives, no wonder a large part of the world would prefer to live here than there. 

I guess Charles "Tremendous" Jones had some truth in his words, "If you can't be happy where you are, it's a cinch you can't be happy where you ain't." I have even met some people who could have as their motto, "An alarm clock is a device that makes you rise and whine." 

Robert Brandt once said, "The average pencil is seven inches long, with just a half inch eraser - in case you thought optimism was dead." 

If these people have learned to dance in the rain, I think we can too. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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