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Mountain Home Magazine

The Prize Goes to Hope and Optimism

Jun 02, 2020 10:37AM ● By Michael Capuzzo

Try a thought experiment. It’s an effective new method to stay sane in an insane world, from the positive psychology movement that came out of the University of Pennsylvania in the 1980s. Ready?

Think about coronavirus. There’s a bad thought. Now give yourself a little vacation. Forget all about the pandemic for a moment.

Instead think about these things:

1. An Elmira boy made it to the big leagues with a ninety-mile-an-hour fastball, about as fast as a human can throw a baseball, then came home to teach English and coach young people, his true love.

2. As Adolph Hitler carved up the map of Europe, the Allies’ blockade prevented America’s Christmas ornaments, which were made then in German small hill towns, from reaching our shores. A small Pennsylvania hill town produced all the ornaments in the U.S.A., saving Christmas during World War II.

3. A young man from a small town (pop. 3,239) left home for New York City, which devours all kinds of naïve dreamers. The small-town boy made Forbes magazine as a brilliant entrepreneur before he was thirty.

4. A young couple, both of them from farm families, decide they’ll make a life as dairy farmers, even if the twenty-first century doesn’t agree. They make it work by starting a farm camp for kids to teach the wonders of rural life.

Feeling any better? You should be, according to a fascinating new book by New York Times science columnist John Tierney, The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule it.

Tierney’s co-author is research psychologist Roy F. Baumeister, a leader of the positive psychology movement, who says abundant research shows that people need to think at least three good thoughts, four to be safe, to drive out a bad one.

Here’s another good thought if I may share it. Mountain Home recently won eight prestigious Keystone Awards from the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association for the best journalism in the state in 2019.

Our writer Carrie Hagen won a first-place award for her story on Jason Black of Wellsboro. He’s the small-town boy who made Forbes magazine as one of the country’s top young entrepreneurs. Carrie won another first-place prize for “The Town That Saved Christmas (Again).” That’s Wellsboro, during WWII. She took a third prize for her story on local Vietnam hero John Hummel.

Our writer Brendan O’Meara won an award for his story on Matt Burch, the Elmira Heights pitcher who played in the Kansas City Royals system and came home to teach at Corning-Painted Post High School.

Two gifted photographers, Sara Wagaman and Linda Stager, took first and second place in feature photography. Jan Smith won a business writing award for her story on inspiring young Tioga County farmers Tuck and Vanessa Hess and their farm kids camp. Our staff also won a prize for headline writing.

Positive psychology, Baumeister says, is a reaction to a century of negative psychology since Freud that focused on what was wrong with us. Positive psychologists research what we do right, how we make it through the day, and a good life. Baumeister says the relentless bad news coming from politicians and media, long before the pandemic, has grown into a “crisis industry” of unprecedented force that overstates our conflicts and underplays the facts of how people get along, neglects the truth of how we survive and flourish in the real world.

Mountain Home has now won more than 150 state and international journalism awards for a kind of positive journalism. We love our beautiful region, and we tell the stories of folks like this month’s cover story by Carrie Hagen about Craig Eccher and Bill Gerski, who are bringing high-speed Internet and opportunity to our remotest rural areas.

Or folks like David and Marla Nowacoski, who came home from Wall Street to a Bradford County farm to start Delivered Fresh to bring organic food from farm to table—May’s cover story by David O’Reilly. Now the couple wears masks and gloves as they deliver door-to-door across the region to meet an urgent need. They work day and night, a real struggle at times, delivering the freshest food with a smile or an encouraging word, a side dish of hope and optimism.

Turns out, according to the very latest psychological research, that’s how we get through everything.