Optimism in a pessimistic culture

One of my favorite pastimes as a kid was watching ABC’s TGIF lineup with my older sister every Friday.

I’m sure it was a drag to have her giddy baby bro all up in the mix. But lemme tell you something: I, for one, wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Who cares if I couldn’t keep up with the storylines as from week-to-week? Because truth be told, what I really came for — besides getting on Ty’s nerves — were the theme songs.

Step By Step’s was an unquestionable banger (“The deeper we fall / The stronger we stay / And we'll be better / The second time around”).

Full House deserves some love too: “When you're lost out there and you're all alone / A light is waiting to carry you home / Everywhere you look / Everywhere you look / Shoo-bit-a-ba-ba-ow”

But nothing got this guy right here on his feet like that jazzy melody whooshing through to let me know it was Family Matters time.

Sing it with me if you know it: “It’s a rare condition / This day and age / To read any good news / On the newspaper page”

Y’all sound so good!

Kidding aside, those lyrics have been on my mind and in my heart lately. Because the world we’re living in is straight-up bonkers. So much so, I’m afraid someone may call the police on me for just for stating the obvious in my own damn newsletter. #WritingWhileBlack

And I wouldn’t blame you if you were expected the worst every time you scrolled social media, opened a push notification or thought about the state of your own pursuit of personal freedom.

Recently though, I was reminded — on two separate occasions — why we should have cause for optimism.

A few weeks ago, I braved an intense rush-hour commute to Brooklyn. It was worth it too: 18 young entrepreneurs were hosting a pop-up shop, the culmination of a seven-week program where they learned the ins and outs of entrepreneurship. These brilliant youngsters launched a line of T-shirts to advocate against violence — and sold out in two hours! It was inspiring to see such ambition and creativity channeled into an impactful cause.

Fast-forward to the following day.

I’m on my weekly FaceTime call with my six-year-old niece Jordan and 12-year-old nephew Micah. By the time Micah got to the phone, I could barely keep my eyes open — the week had definitely gotten the best of me — and I did a lousy job of hiding it. So as we wrapped up, I apologized to him for not being as energetic as he’s used to. And, without skipping a beat, he said, “It’s okay. I know you’ve been working so hard. And I’m so proud of you. Get some rest. I love you.”

Not gonna lie: I expected him to be disappointed. He looks forward to Friday nights as much as I do. And I know how frustrating it can feel when people are visibly disconnected. But Micah offered something I was unwilling to extend to myself: Compassion.

I share these two stories because it seems everywhere I turn there’s doom-and-gloom forecasts of the world as we know it falling apart.

But thankfully, as the cliché goes, “the kids are alright.”

They’re out here selling out pop-up shops. And making it look easy.

They’re out here showing the love that’s missing in the halls of government, campuses of Ivy League universities and threads of social media discourse.

They’re out here on the frontlines for causes they care about. And amplifying the marginalized voices that came before them, but were overlooked by the mainstream.

That’s not to say the grown-ups aren’t out here changing the game. Because we are.

What’s so inspiring about the youthful energy I’ve experienced lately though is the joy, empathy and ingenuity they’re using to change the game.

And the fact that they don’t talk about it; they let their actions do the talking.

As a result, it’s challenged me to follow their lead and bring more of the same into my business, relationships and day-to-day interactions.

Because that giddy little kid is still inside of me. Even if he’d struggle to keep his open through a couple of hours of TGIF…

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