Sunday, August 9, 2015

Pep Talk: "Pedaling Past Peale's Place"

Reflection was in high gear after a trip to New York City to celebrate daughter’s high school graduation and visit son who works and lives there. A wonderful and memorable trip that included, unexpectedly, pedaling past Peale’s place.

While zipping through Manhattan on a rented bike your scribe slowed dramatically then veered from a designated bike line amid the clogged streets. What to my wandering eyes appeared? The Marble Collegiate Church. Where Norman Vincent Peale, for more than 50 years, preached the power of positive thinking.

I have read Peale’s book of the same title more than once. I’m not alone. Since being published in 1952, according to publisher Simon & Schuster, it has sold more than five million copies. When Peale passed, then President Bill Clinton offered: "The name of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale will forever be associated with the wondrously American values of optimism and service.”

Later, while sitting at the airport awaiting a flight to Denver, my mind kept ruminating on Clinton’s statement, “The wondrously American values of optimism and service.” How can we boost their levels? We need more of each.

For example, considering its size it’s no surprise homelessness is a big issue in our nation’s biggest city. Denver has a homeless problem too. Most big cities do. How can the wondrously American values of optimism and service move the needle in a positive direction? How can we get men and women off streets and into treatment programs effectively dealing with mental health and addiction challenges?

That’s a complicated and multi-faceted issue with no easy answer. This much I do know, Victory’s A Stronger Cord wellness movement is trying through an emphasis on fitness, relationship building and community service. Work out, hang out and help out. Simple but effective steps to boost those wondrously American values of optimism and service Peale preached for more than half a century.

The current headlines are grim. Reading the NY Times suggests researchers have repeatedly found that in the United States, there is now less economic mobility than Canada or much of Europe. Much print focuses on, a year later, Ferguson, Missouri. What have we learned from it? Baltimore? Other examples of strife in the streets?  In 1932, Peale took over a church of 600 members and quickly grew it to more than 5,000 congregants preaching optimism and good works. ASC’s employing a similar strategy through encouraging a commitment to better fitness, relationships and communities. It starts with the workout.

Peale was not without critics. Many from the mental health community blasted the best-selling Power of Positive Thinking. However, the Ohio-born preacher will be forever remembered as an optimist who believed that, whatever obstacles life delivered, we could prevail by approaching the journey with a simple sense of faith.

Pedaling past Peale’s place was a reminder: Let’s have faith we can make a difference by wondrously exhibiting optimism and service toward others. And don’t be afraid to venture outside the lines. When it comes to social issues, America needs some out of the box pedaling.

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