By Lana Turnbull
“You’ve got to accentuate the positive Eliminate the negative Latch on to the affirmative Don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”
It’s not surprising that the song “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” lyrics by Johnny Mercer, recorded by Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, the Andrews Sisters, among others, was published in 1944. Now that was a time when they knew how to keep their chins and their spirits up, despite what was happening around the world. World War II was raging, the economy still had not fully recovered from the Great Depression, especially in the South, and Americans who were not directly involved in the war effort were faced with shortages and rationing of goods we take for granted, like sugar, gasoline, fuel oil and even meat. And yet…in 1944 and 1945, Americans all over the country were walking around singing along to this upbeat musical directive to look on the bright side.
My mom and my dad (who was prevented from volunteering to serve by a medical condition), were holding down the fort in Merigold, where he was probably the only young man between 18 and 35 left in town. He farmed for my mom’s family and worked side by side with German prisoners of war who had been brought to one of several prison camps that dotted the Mississippi Delta countryside. My parents didn’t have a lot, but in all the stories they told me of their lives during that time, never once did they characterize it as difficult or unpleasant. It was what it was, and they were thankful for the blessings they had, instead of focusing on what they lacked. They knew how to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate” the positive.
I would like to think that as creatures of free will, we have the ability to determine our own perspective on the state of our condition by consciously choosing to think positive instead of negative thoughts. I would like to believe that we also can teach ourselves to give other people and their viewpoints the benefit of the doubt before we lock down a first impression or form an opinion about them.
There just seems to be way too much gloom and doom in this world and we can either fall into that abyss of darkness, or see what we can do to introduce some much needed light. Even though the songs of my youth ranged from The Beatles to the ballads of the anti-war movement, whenever I catch myself slipping down the slope of negative thoughts and attitudes, I’m going to remember a catchy little tune that lifted the spirits of the greatest generation. They really knew how to do positive.