gingkoeditedThe annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting — held this past November in Atlanta — is always enjoyable. The days are long and tiring, so it’s easy to become a bit ill.

Ordinarily, I’m not a cantankerous person but sometimes fall victim to grousing over things like walking a long way to hear a paper with an interesting title, only to discover an exercise in trivia or academic gibberish. So I decided to see how often I could turn potential negative experiences into positive ones for the day.

I started with a morning walk, but had not brought an appropriate coat for 35-degree weather. Instead of complaining, I just cut the walk short and stopped in a sunny spot to admire the bright yellow leaves of a ginkgo tree against a glorious blue sky.

As I approached the Peachtree Center mall and food court, I noticed an apparently homeless man shivering near the entrance. It was tempting to give him a wide berth or decline to meet his gaze.

But I decided instead to say hello, and when he asked for money for a cup of coffee, I invited him inside, learned his name, and bought Alonzo a hot breakfast.

Hustling on to the first meeting I had chosen for the morning (Egyptology and Ancient Israel), I had to cross one of several narrow sky-bridges that connect the Hyatt, Marriott and Hilton hotels. Traffic was clogged because several folks had run across old friends and stopped in the middle of the bridge to visit.

Instead of getting ill, I chose to be glad for their happy reunion.

I intended to eat lunch at Underground Atlanta but after hiking there, discovered it was closed. No disappointment needed, it gave me time to expand my walk to include Centennial Olympic Park, which was bustling prior to a Falcons game.

Along the way, a teenaged girl approached me with a plastic bag full of hard candy, and asked for a dollar to help her earn some sort of talent scholarship. I could have been annoyed, but gave her the dollar and told her to keep the candy.

By the time I got back, I had a blister on my right heel, but chose to be thankful that my new right hip allows me to walk far enough to earn a blister.

Back at the conference, I was too late to get a seat for a fascinating session on “Ancient Near Eastern Iconography and the Bible.” So I stood in the back.

A large guy in front of me was hogging two seats and knew I was there, but never offered to move his jacket and bag from the empty chair beside him so I could sit.

Instead of getting ill, I took it as an opportunity to burn extra calories by standing for two-and-a-half hours while occasionally fitting in some physical therapy exercises.

As a bonus, while standing in the back I could periodically check on the Duke-Georgetown game score without giving offense.

I made a point of getting to the 4 o’clock session early enough for a seat (whew!) while learning about Hebrew Bible, History and Archaeology.

Turning lemons to lemonade is starting to sound monotonous, but in a rewarding sort of way. You might want to try it sometime. BT

By Tony W. Cartledge
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