As 2017 came to a close, media across the nation reminded us of the many bad things that occurred over the past 12 months. Hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and acts of God ranked highest followed by crazy people doing horrible things and then famous people we lost, famous people who lost it all and famous people who fell from grace. From true catastrophe to juicy gossip, 2017 definitely had its share of bad news headlines.

Bad news often overshadows good news. I know. That’s not news to anyone. Things that go wrong can weigh us down even when they don’t personally affect us. They’re sad, scary, unpredictable, maddening and leave us with feelings of despair and helplessness. I think that’s one of the reasons the release of “The Greatest Showman” had such perfect timing.

Tim and I saw the new movie last week. I don’t consider myself a movie critic, so that is not my intent. But I have to say, this film conveyed, at least to me, exactly what we all need to hear right now.

Denton Arts & Jazz crowd

“The Greatest Showman” tells the story of P.T. Barnum, the man who dreamed up the circus. Dream is the key word. Barnum’s was a head full of wild imagination from the time he was a poor boy from the wrong side of the tracks with nothing going for him except imagination and an incredibly positive attitude. He was a master at hope and kept himself in motion towards better no matter his circumstances.

In the same way this is not a critique of the movie, it is also not a spoiler alert. So, I won’t share details. What I want to hone in on was what I believe is the most inspiring aspect of the story: Barnum’s infectiousness. People he encountered found strength to believe in their own value and possibility just by being around him. His passion was that contagious.

Barnum and friends face tragedy, challenges, failures, disdain from others and even disappointment in one another. But they prevail. (That’s not a spoiler. Everyone knows the Barnum circus enterprise lived successfully for well over 100 years.) They banded together and refused to give up. Bad things became opportunities to see things differently, to willingly and creatively alter perspective. It’s how the circus we know today came to be.

“The Greatest Showman” is a wonderful family-friendly movie with a powerfully uplifting message and fantastic soundtrack. I highly recommend it. But my purpose in bringing it up is not to urge readers to flock to theaters, though you won’t be sorry if you opt for that course of action. My purpose is to remind us of hope.

Many bad things happened in 2017, yes. The truth is that bad things happen every year. But so do many, many good things. Conscious decision is required for focusing on good because negativity and struggles simply overwhelm. They can be so heavy on our psyche that hope seems nowhere to be found.

Over the years I have written this column, I have worked to highlight our community and our people. I dwell on the characteristics and happenings that make Denton remarkable. I strive to find positive stories, even in the midst of trying times that make us smile and bolster pride in our city and in each other. A reader once labeled me “Denton’s Pollyanna.” I didn’t know how to take that at first. I’ve long since embraced it now, though the reader who named me was poking fun at what he perceived to be my rose-colored-glasses outlook on life.

I can think of a lot worse things to be known for than choosing to find good wherever possible. Bad things happen. They happen in my life, too. There’s an old saying, “It’s not what happens to you but what you do with it that matters.” That about sums it up. It’s our next step that matters. I am happy dwelling on good around me, seeing possibility in imperfection and doing my part to address situations that aren’t so good. And if people were to someday see me as contagiously, passionately encouraging as Barnum was seen in his day, what a legacy!

It is a new year. The slate is clean. What will we do with it? Things are going to happen that we didn’t see coming. Many of those things will be wonderful. Others will not feel so good. Some will come between us to spark friction. Some will make us sad. Some will test our strength and others our convictions. But like in Barnum’s story, everything that comes our way has the potential to be opportunity. It just takes hope.