“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the most endearing attributes we can share with each other is that of enthusiasm. I believe Emerson has it right. I have witnessed individuals and families that have endured some of the greatest hardships and conflicts and, in addition to kindness, enthusiasm was what created energy toward positive change in their lives.
I want to be clear; I’m not talking about a “fake it till you make it,” false enthusiasm. This type of enthusiasm is often easily detected by others eventually and leads to let-down or turning someone off. This type of false enthusiasm is missing something, something deeper inside a person.
When you look at the etiology of the word enthusiasm, “en” is the root word for “in” and “theos” is the root word for “god” or “deity.” What a great way to describe a truly enthusiastic person, someone who reflects an internal spirit or internal deity. We all have this internal “spirit” inside us to help us overcome the obstacles we face.
We see enthusiasm most often in our children and can easily activate it in them. I remember doing this with my children when they were little and were given the responsibility of emptying the dishwasher. They did not enjoy this chore, showing resistance to even getting started. The shift came in when I enthusiastically decided to create a timed game to see how fast we could put the dishes away, when teamed with each other, without breaking any of them. We were able to accomplish the task in about 2 minutes (we were under 2 minutes – 1 minute, 54 seconds). We laughed and had fun, even though there was a time we broke a glass.
Despair is often what many experience when seeking help. For some, generating ideas or paths out of very difficult realities or circumstances, a small spark of enthusiasm emerges that can lead to motivation. Often, this is enough to take a step forward in a new, healthy direction.
Enthusiasm can create hope and energy within us. It turns on that inner spirit within us and can activate it in others. During the Covid lockdown I spent a great deal of time outside and learned about the growing invasive buckthorn plant problem in our parks. In talking with several neighbors, we decided to act. We adopted a 19-acre lot in one park and have taken steps to clear it, to bring it back to its original hardwood/prairie state. It started with an idea to preserve this park for future generations and enthusiasm led to action. Clearing this area will be a “great thing” and our enthusiasm, no doubt, will lead us to a new area or initiative.
Enthusiasm may lead us to try something new. My wife’s enthusiasm led me and several other couples to try square dancing earlier this month. I haven’t square danced since gym class in junior high school. My wife’s enthusiasm was enough to spark mine. When we arrived, we were met by the most amazing, enthusiastic group of dancers that taught us about 15 of the 68 different square dance moves. I had no idea there were 68 moves. The instructors had true enthusiasm, kindness, and grace for all the beginners there. The contagiousness of the initial enthusiasm has certainly led us to put next month’s square dancing event on our calendar (January 4 & 18, 7-9pm at the Bloomington Arts Center, for anyone interested. And, by the way, it’s free!). I’m curious to see if my enthusiasm for this is contagious for anyone else! When we follow the genuine enthusiasm of others, beautiful, life-giving experiences can happen.
My wish for all of us this holiday season is to take note of the enthusiasm you see in others, especially children. Consider reflecting on how your enthusiasm has waxed or waned over this past year and consider how you may express it toward something life-giving in this next year, ways to share your inner god or deity with others and see how it may help others.
Be open to someone else’s enthusiasm. Recognize it and consider going with it. Let it spark your own enthusiasm. You may be surprised by what “great thing” comes from it.