At the checkout counter of an Oak Cliff grocery store, I watched as pleasant but subdued shoppers marched forward and placed their items on the conveyer belt. It would have been unmemorable except for the constant commentary offered by the one scanning and bagging:

“Ooh, this looks really good! I was going to buy some, too, before I go home after work.”

“These flowers are beautiful! She’s going to love them. Got a date tonight?”

“I am so addicted to this stuff. I eat it every morning on my toast.”

I could see the difference her tone and posture made. Smiles emerged on forlorn faces and no one was bothered by the wait. She reminded me that every kind of work carries the possibility of making the lives of others better.

The difference? Enthusiasm.

Enthusiasm can make a dull work glow, an office come to life, a cause pulse with the possibility of success.

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
I’m concerned that cynicism is on the rise. People often express cynicism about politics, about the environment, about societal challenges such as racial division and about their own lives. The word “cool” could mark these personalities — neither hot nor cold, neither expectant for a better day nor willing to give in to despair. They have dreams, but they don’t pursue them with passion for fear of failure or disappointment.

But Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

The word enthusiasm springs from a divine origin. The Greek enthus means ‘possessed by a god, inspired’ with the root word theos, or ‘god’, at its heart. Enthusiasm could be translated the God inside. An enthusiastic person was believed to house the indwelling Spirit of God. The word atheist shares the same root but carries the opposite meaning. Of course, many atheists live with much passion and vitality, accomplishing great things on behalf of others. The word no longer speaks only to a Spirit-filled reality, but instead of a zest for life and energy toward a cause.

But we all crave that dynamic, full, abundant life. We all would say that enthusiasm is better than apathy, indifference and the ordinary, dull march of mediocrity.

So how’s your level of enthusiasm?

Norman Vincent Peale, who wrote extensively on the power of positive thinking, said that, “Enthusiasm can be aroused by two things: first, an ideal that captures your imagination by storm, and second, a definite, workable plan to put that ideal into practice.”

Essentially, enthusiasm needs a source. It’s something that is stirred and sustained inside of you, but not something that is self-generated. As an artist needs a muse, enthusiasm needs an ideal. An ideal without a plan will only lead to disappointment and disillusionment. But an ideal with a plan, infused with enthusiasm, can change the world.

Those who live with enthusiasm seem to understand that the secret of a full life is found in embracing each day with vigor, believing that they can overcome challenges, and enjoying every minute of it.