Relentlessly upbeat people depress me. You know the kind – so full of pep they look like they’ll explode if they don’t burst into song or break into a tap routine. What are they hiding behind that let’s-put-the-show-on-right-here grin? Don’t they know that the seas are rising, the unicorns all died of syphilis and the world is going to hell?
For the past few years, my Christmas hat of choice has been a black and white Santa hat with BAH-HUMBUG stitched on the faux-fur trim. It was my one-woman protest against the insane spending frenzy of our mid-winter debt-fest and kick-back against the tyranny of the happiest-time-of-the-year jingle bells mob, but mostly I wore it just because I thought it was funny.
My relationship with cynicism started somewhere around my mid to late teens. There have been a lot of laughs along the way, but lately I’ve been thinking that beyond those knowing one-liners, cynicism achieves little and changes nothing.
Despite giant islands of plastic floating in the sea and images of bleached coral reefs, despite the rise of homelessness and the appalling necessity for foodbanks, despite the jaw-dropping sight of Trump in the White House, and May in No. 10, making Thatcher look like a tree-hugger, despite the appalling Johnson and everything else that stinks about the Westminster Government, despite it all – this Christmas, I’m choosing optimism.
Why the change of heart?
Maybe it’s because I know someone who saw a strandline of plastic waste on an island beach and very quietly, began to clear it up. Others noticed and joined in. One thing led to another and now a community-owned island is a thriving hub of growth and activity.
Maybe it’s because a bunch of local primary school kids decided they didn’t like what was happening to our seas and persuaded every business in our village to stop using plastic straws.
Maybe it’s because of someone who has decided to turn his garden shed into an Eco Shed, where people can buy wooden toothbrushes and refill plastic containers with environmentally friendly detergents. We pay cost-price for this service, plus 10%, all of which will be going to the local Men’s Shed.
And maybe it’s because of those Shedders. In the short time they’ve been together, they’ve produced props for the local youth theatre, constructed a floating duck house – the people’s duck house – and built feeding stations for the local red squirrel population.
Maybe it’s because people care about the squirrels.
It’s about all of these things and more. It’s even about the Scottish Government which has seen fit to provide baby boxes for newborns, and to run a pilot scheme which restores the dignity of young women on low incomes by providing free sanitary products.
It’s about seeing people trying to make a difference.
Before anyone gets excited, I’m not going all jingle bells and pep. There’s no danger of me breaking into a tap routine, but this year, the Bah-Humbug hat is staying in its box.
Cynicism is bad for the soul and relentless pessimism is depressing so why not join me in some quiet optimism. The laughs may be harder to come by, but they last longer and the colours are brighter.
Doing nothing changes nothing. Doing something, no matter how small, might be the something that matters. It could just be that it is possible to change the world one beach clean at a time. If not, we’ve lost nothing for the trying.
Wishing you all the best for 2018.
LG Thomson is the author of several books including noir thriller, Boyle’s Law, and the post-apocalyptic thrill-fest, Each New Morn. In November 2017, The New Dark, the first book in her Dark Times trilogy, was published. Find out more at Thrillers With Attitude.