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Turning negatives into positives

The frigid temperatures last week and the anticipation of Christmas reminded me of an interesting personal story that I shared with my kids about -- as unlikely as it may sound -- the day it snowed in Miami. The older generations may be split as to whether or not it ever actually snowed down here, but those of us in our late 30s and early 40s living here since the 1970s will never deny what we saw on Jan. 19, 1977 when we awoke that frosty morning and looked outside our windows. We saw snow.

At the time I was six years old and I couldn’t for the life of me understand the cynicism with which the adults reacted to that miraculous event. I recall how they laughed and jeered as the light flurries instantly melted in their hands. Granted, it wasn’t what we expected and it didn’t come close to what we imagined. But it was snow, and my friends and I weren’t about to let too many technicalities get in the way of our fun. To begin with, school had been canceled that day and, if nothing else, we were thankful for that.

We made makeshift sleds out of cardboard boxes and pushed and pulled each other up and down the sidewalk. I remember gathering up just enough snow to barely make one, icy snow ball. We even feasted on the carrots we had bought to place on the faces of all the snowmen we were going to make that day but for the lack of accumulation. Looking back I recognize that we made the best of a situation that failed to meet our expectations because we chose to focus on the positive aspects of that day instead of the negative. That choice, I realize now, was based on a belief, albeit a naïve belief at the time. We believed that it was going to snow, and so, it snowed.

As I look back at the year that’s been and look forward to the holidays and the promise of a new and prosperous year to come, I don’t think that anyone would deny that 2010 failed to meet our expectations. The fact is that it was downright difficult to bear as we thought we would be well on our way toward a recovery by now. Yet despite the let-downs and the hardships, I’m reminded that we have a choice to focus on the positive aspects of the year instead of the negative and that choice too is based on the belief that life is meaningful under any conditions, even when it doesn’t meet our expectations.

I think that’s one of the reasons we enjoy the holidays as much as we do. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to gather with friends and family and enjoy the festivities. We all look forward to taking some time to rest and relax as the year draws to a close.

But Christmas also reminds us of the importance of faith and hope in our lives and the need to believe in something greater than ourselves. Christmas reminds us that there is still good in the world despite the tragedy and the difficulty, good that is worth fighting for and striving for. It’s precisely that faith and hope, which Christmas renews, that can empower us to creatively turn life’s negative experiences into something positive and that is the choice we have before us this holiday season. We must choose whether or not to believe.

Faith isn’t always easy or popular. There’s injustice throughout the world, violence, war and abuse. Closer to home, we live in a skeptical society where it’s become increasingly difficult to believe in anything that we can’t see with our own eyes or touch with our own hands. Yet even then we’re skeptical. We’re jaded, understandably, by scandals and ethics violations, politicians and business leaders, the recession and unemployment. No, things definitely didn’t turn out the way we expected or imagined. But we have a choice. We can choose in our cynicism to scoff and jeer at the delicate and fragile flurries which melt upon touching our skin, or we can choose to believe, make the best of the situation, and turn the negative aspects of life into positive aspects of life.

It is my hope that we all take the time this holiday season to find those good and positive things in life that we can all believe in. It doesn’t matter what the critics may say, or what the statistics may reveal, or what the forecasters may predict, if we have faith and believe, that’s all that matters. You know, “officially” snow in Miami is not on the weather record books.

According to Ray Biedinger, the weatherman who predicted the unlikely forecast, “It was an un-measurable amount that fell, so it’s written down as a ‘trace’ of snow.” But we know what really happened that day. It snowed. And who knows, Miami, if it happened once it could happen again.

Happy holidays to all!

Manny García-Tuñón, executive vice president of Lemartec, an international design-build firm headquartered in Miami, can be reached at manny@mgtunon.com.

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