Glass Half-Full by David Weiss
There is great value and necessity in both confidence and in optimism. My grandparents, all Holocaust Survivors, had to be confident and optimistic. They didn’t have the luxury to be anything else. To answer the age old philosophical dilemma; the glass is never half empty. It’s always half full.
Their confidence came in different forms. My Grandpa Grinbaum was a man with a very big personality. He would always say that every picture looked better when he was in it! It was a semi-joke. He had a classic smile. As Larry Hagman would say about his own character (JR Ewing) from the TV series Dallas; “It’s that Sh—eating grin”. Grandpa Grinbaum had that grin. The grin that said he was just that good…at everything. After surviving a ghetto, five concentration camps, making two escapes and being a large-scale success as a family man and business man after the war, he earned that grin. And his optimism was infectious. One of his favorite sayings was “I am a tailor, I will press everything out”. He certainly did have a way of straightening everything out. There was simply nothing that he couldn’t do. Looking back at it, there was simply nothing he didn’t do! This wealth of talent made him as optimistic as he was confident. He saw the tremendous potency in his own abilities, and he saw the same in others. He had an indomitable spirit and he knew that others did as well. In Grandpa Jack’s mind, how could we be in store for anything but a great future?
My Grandma Grinbaum was also a confident lady. And optimistic. She was crystal clear about her convictions. She never wavered in her vision of the world. She had a clear view of the way things should be in terms of her political and religious beliefs. She always spoke about the future with optimism. She would say that when I am older there will be a cure for cancer. For a lady that saw her world take a horribly dark turn so suddenly in the Holocaust, having such optimism is inspiring and uplifting. Maybe it had sunk in that she was stronger than nearly anyone in the world. She was so strong that she couldn’t even tell the post-Nazi German government how long she was in the sub-camps of Auschwitz. Nobody would believe that a prisoner could survive from November 1939 to April of 1945 in labor/concentration camps. But she did survive. And she thrived. It makes sense that she would have a strong sense of confidence and a feeling that the future must and will be far better than the past.
Grandpa Weiss was a supremely confident man, but not at all in the same way as Grandpa Grinbaum. He had a quiet confidence. He was confident that he could do anything he put his mind to as long as he had the time to focus. He was steadfast in his core principles of patience, proper pacing and persistence. There was a clear connection in his mind between the confidence that if he’d do things correctly, the desired outcome would follow. It was a guarded optimism but always optimism. I am sure that his quiet confidence came from being part of the 17% of Slovak Jews to survive the Holocaust. After survival, he guided his wife and two-year old son out of communism’s reach. His life resume also included building and repairing aircraft for the Israeli Air Force and being a very well respected and revered craftsman in the United States. Perhaps that reservoir of accomplishments were what lead to his confidence in himself and his confidence in the ability of others to move forward and thrive.
Grandma Weiss was the most confident woman I have ever known. There was a right way to do things and that was how they would be done. The sheets would be folded a certain way, the checkbook would be balanced a certain way and the schedule would be kept down to the precise minute. She was sure that she could see the big picture (and even create it). She was also sure that she was the best person to execute the plan. Grandma Weiss wasn’t one to leave it up to someone else to get a job done. She was also incredibly optimistic. I remember that she would always tell me when “the days are getting longer”. She awaited that time of year and would spread the good news in the middle of the Wisconsin winter. She saw the good in people, in situations and in the future. She always wanted to know about what was going on in the world. Grandma Weiss was always more interested in what lie ahead rather than what was in the rear view mirror. After having escaped death by jumping out a deportation center window and spending three years in hiding, this was a confident woman who knew that the world’s future would be brighter than its past.
In the 1989 classic, Field of Dreams, Archibald “Moonlight” Graham said the following to Ray Kinsella when asked if there was anything he wished he could have done in his lifetime.
“Well, you know I… I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases — stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?”
When I watch Field of Dreams, the “wink” part always catches my attention. We should all have the confidence that we know something special, we have some inner vision and sense of confidence that makes the “wink” possible. There is also a striking optimism in this speech. His confidence in his ability to stretch a double into a triple and the joy he anticipated by hugging the base. There is also the joy he anticipates by seeing a simple yet awe-inspiring blue sky. There is such a hopefulness and beauty in this imagery.
Is there enough magic out there to make our personal and collective dreams come true? I will never be a doubter. Confidence in ourselves and confidence in our collective abilities allow us to live our destiny as eternal optimists.
David Weiss was born, raised and still lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Being the grandson of four Holocaust Survivors has always been an integral part of his identity and life. David earned a Bachelors of Arts in Education from Cardinal Stritch University and a Masters of Arts in Education from Viterbo University. He spent eleven years as a second and third grade teacher before starting his own promotions business. David is also an author and teaches at the college level. David and his wife are the proud parents of a six year old daughter.
Purchase the author’s book “The Everyday Remember: Holocaust Legacy”
Purchase the author’s book “Czech Mates: Holocaust Legacy”
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Learn more at www.HolocaustLegacyBooks.com
Read more about David Weiss’ new book HERE.