boston.com News your connection to The Boston Globe
FIRST PERSON

Come on, Get Happy

The unsinkable Nancy Purbeck, founder of Positive People Day in Boston - it's tomorrow, don't forget - talks about staying upbeat and spreading the love.


(Globe Staff Photo / Suzanne Kreiter)

Hello. How are you?

I'm just great. It's a beautiful day. Yea.

Whoa. You are positive. Tell me about Positive People Day, which you started 10 years ago.

It's a springboard for everyone in the city of Boston and beyond to spread kindness, to swap it for negativity. Without kindness, there is violence.

And what inspired you to do this?

Honestly, I had an experience with a cab driver who was terribly rude. My mother was with me. We'd just returned from Ireland, and it took all of my experience in conflict resolution to get us safely to Beacon Hill.

So what's the goal of Positive People Day?

Well, it's not always about changing attitudes. It's just the simple act of doing something positive. If someone runs you off the road, instead of screaming at them you can yield.

Hmm.

When one negative act happens, it can lead to another negative act. We have an adorable card with Underdog on it - he's our mascot - which we hand out. You can take that card and send it to your mom, or to a teacher, or to the neighbor who took out your trash when you were feeling down.

How do you spend the day?

Every year, at the crack of dawn, I head to South Station, where over 60,000 commuters come in. I'm there with a wonderful band of volunteers. My role for the day is to personally reach out with this very welcoming little Underdog card. It's a personal exchange of kindness.

What about folks - and there are a lot of them - who're just depressed? They have an imbalance, an illness, and they have a hard time being positive.

I'd like to say that we're really hoping people make a commitment to kindness, but everyone's not on top of their daily stress. I know that. This is not a club only for people who know how to feel cheerful. It's advocacy for people to reach out to others who need a little bit of help.

How do you manage to stay upbeat when, say, it's freezing cold and you feel miserable?

It's not my own tip. It's something a brilliant theologian said to me once: We get to open our eyes today. And the first thing we can all do is look for something to be grateful for. You can always find something. Always.

Despite your generally upbeat attitude, everyone has a pet peeve. What's yours?

I'd say name-calling. It really hurts my ears to hear it. And I have one more: people throwing trash out of their cars. That just about puts me out of orbit.

I don't suppose you curse.

I do say "good grief" a lot.

More from Boston.com

SEARCH THE ARCHIVES