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group of people with their arms around each otherBack when the new millennium dawned, a movie debuted titled “Miss Congeniality.” It was a box office success, grossing over $200 million. (A sequel followed shortly after.) Two decades later, some of the problems the film highlighted still exist, but there has been improvement in other areas portrayed that are worth noting. For the lead character, Gracie, expectations were set, judgment were made and conclusions drawn based on stereotypes rather than reality. How she dealt with this and what she learned from the experience was my primary takeaway from the movie. I see parallels to my own growth in her increased awareness and understanding of who she is as a person and how she relates to others.

All of us have our own perceptions, values, and expectations and while many are similar, many differ. We bring these to every association we make. I hope that this is done in a positive, understanding manner that allows individuality to flourish as common ground is built. Being different is not necessarily wrong and very often, it is at the point of the most divergence that growth, compassion and understanding are most abundant. The very best groups with whom I work have that atmosphere of acceptance joined in common purpose.

The title bestowed on Gracie is so fitting in that the trait of congeniality has among its qualities a self-confident person who is aware of others, tolerant, fair, impartial, patient, and willing to seek out positive qualities in others and build upon them. When in the company of self-confident individuals, I feel my own confidence rise.

It also represents an ability to see the humor in each moment and not take life so seriously all the time. (I can hear my aunt saying, “Get over yourself, young lady.”) People who are fun to be around are better company than those who walk around with a dark cloud hanging over their heads. The former enjoy life, handle challenges in proactive ways, and keep negative experiences in perspective. The journey should be one that brings joy to all of us as we work together, build each other up, and encourage progress. People who have the ability to see the humor in life help me deal with the curveballs life tosses at us when we may not be paying close attention.

I definitely benefit from associating with kind, confident people who love life and who are able to keep me from taking things too seriously. As Randy Newman wrote, “You’ve Got a Friend in Me.”

I Care, Barb

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