Every so often I get an email from someone with what I call “witticisms” attached. Usually they are in the form of a cartoon or funny picture with a caption underneath. One of these that I really like depicts a stork trying to eat a frog. The stork has swallowed half the frog and there’s a big bulge in its throat. The frog has both front legs tightened around the throat of the stork right under the bulge keeping the stork from swallowing it. The caption reads “Never, ever give up.”

I often think about that cartoon when life throws me a curveball and I’m feeling kinda defeated. And, it usually helps to put things into perspective. This week I thought again about that cartoon when I heard about Diana Nyad’s amazing feat of being the first person (man or woman) to swim the 110 mile Florida Strait from Cuba to Key West without a shark cage. That’s right – 110 miles without getting out of the water.  

This long distance swim took over two days. It would be a real accomplishment for most folks just to stay awake for more than 48 hours, much less swim for 53 hours straight. And, the most amazing thing is that she is 64 years old – a time when most people are applying for Social Security. Diana had attempted this swim four previous times – the first time when she was 29.  

Now talk about being that frog that will never give up – Diana Nyad is a living, breathing example of that motto. But, you don’t have to make national headlines to be an inspiration and personify what it means to never even think about giving up. I know it’s probably going to embarrass her but Melody and I go to church with Karla Boatright and to me her story is another great example of the power of positive thinking.

Most of you probably know that Karla has had a pretty big health challenge the last few months. But, you would not be able to tell it from her attitude. I know that she was very upset when she was first diagnosed but that emotion was quickly pushed aside and replaced with the attitude of “let’s beat this thing.” And, you know what? I don’t think anyone ever had a doubt that she was going to beat the heck out of it.

I know that she was down from time to time but you could see in her eyes and hear in her voice the determination that said “never, ever give up.” And now the prognosis is good and she is living life to it’s fullest – just like she always has.

The title of my column is “Standing in the Gap” and, just to remind you, it comes from Ezekiel 22:30 that reads “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”

The people of Babylon had given up and Ezekiel could find no one who was willing to “stand in the gap” to save the city from destruction. Too bad he didn’t have a Diana Nyad or a Karla Boatright. They would have been willing to stand with him.  Most of us will never try a feat like Diana and we hope that we don’t face a devastating health crisis like Karla. But, we can all learn from ladies like these and from others that the power of positive thinking and the driving will to “never, ever give up” can make the difference between defeat and victory.

Since I’m talking about positive thinking, I’m going to end the column with a commentary on a letter that I read in an advice column. The writer complained that when they entered their bank the tellers were too friendly and engaged in too much “chitchat.” They said that this took up too much time and wanted to know how to tell them to “shut up and get the line moving.”

How sad is it that some people are so self-absorbed that they complain about people being too friendly. I know that sometimes we are in a hurry and need to just get our business done and get on with other things. But, for goodness sake, don’t get mad because someone is trying to brighten up your day and show that they appreciate you doing business with them.  

I’m sure glad that when I go into businesses in this town that I get greeted with a smile and people seem to be glad that I’m there. Of course, being an ex-politician they may be happier when I leave but “hey, what the heck, a smile is a smile” and I appreciate a positive attitude. Maybe the grump in the paper needs to spend some time with Diana or Karla. I bet they wouldn’t stay grumpy for too long.
Kevin Wilson writes a weekly column for the Daily News.