pastoral/spiritual care

The Power of Positive Thinking: How Big is Your Trophy Case?

Some have maybe heard the true story about the conversation that South Carolina’s Athletics Director (AD), Eric Hymen, and Hall-of-Famer-to-be head baseball coach, Ray Tanner, had a few years ago. It was a momentous and memorable conversation about the trophy case that sits in the center field fan area as one enters Carolina Stadium in Columbia, just next to the Congaree River. The story is told that Mr. Hymen and Ray Tanner talked about the “size” of the trophy case, and whether it should be built to hold more than one national championship trophy. Granted that conversation was initiated by AD Hymen, and it took a good amount of courage and almost boldness to even think about a second national championship, given that Carolina had just won its first ever in the big three men’s sports of football, basketball, and baseball. The story goes that the trophy case was actually constructed eventually to hold (2) trophies, in the event the team were to win another. Lo and behold, Carolina did the unthinkable and even unimaginable, and won its back-to-back National Championship in baseball in 2011, in the new Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha. 

When I was 19 years old, and young and impressionable, I was searching for spiritual guidance outside of myself. Surely my path has had religious roots in both Catholic and Protestant areas, but another area of great influence for me was the writing of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller. Both were pastors and authors who had the power to speak positive words that helped others to “be positive” and to envision “a positive future.” Schuller is known for reaching and encouraging thousands via television and books. One of his first church locations was an old, drive-in movie theatre converted to a place of worship. Peale was a great writer, and inspired others to first believe and then work toward achieving. Neither pastor or writer could be accused of “easy-believism.”Instead both endorsed dreaming and hard work. It is the same vision and hard work that AD Eric Hymen and Coach Tanner instilled in young college baseball players at USC. 

So, how big is your trophy case? Are there still goals in your life that you want to achieve? Are you bold enough to even think of it as a possibility? Just today my future son-in-law sent me a picture of some beautiful waterway and coastal marsh near Charleston. He texted me, saying, “I plan to have this one day.” I believe him. I really do. He has envisioned and dreamed of his future possibility, and I admire his courage and inner drive to think the unimaginable. Sometimes we need someone to ask us, “Have you built the trophy case big enough?” Sometimes we need others to affirm the gifts and talents that we ourselves cannot so easily see in ourselves. Let me encourage us to do both: encourage and dream. Encourage others to follow their dreams and to work toward the goal. Even encourage others to think of their most hopeful future, and then give the same thing to yourself. Give yourself the time and space to write down what you believe you want and what God wants in your life. It may be material like a house on the water or even the National Championship trophy. It may be as simple as better relationships with family or co-workers, or even buying the car of your dreams, or getting admitted to the college of your choice.  Either way, our goals and hopes are achieved when we first have the boldness of “thinking positively” and working toward a desired vision and future. How big is your trophy case?  

Dear God:  Thank you for visionaries like Robert Schuller and Norman Vincent Peale and what they gave to people of faith and me. Be with me as I envision my future and help me to use the power of positive thinking. Amen. 

-- Chaplain George M. Rossi


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