My maternal grandmother, Lena Bradford Brim, was valedictorian of Gordonsville High School, class of 1916.

My mother, her only daughter, was valedictorian of Carthage High School, class of 1941. Her name was Mary Helen Brim McCall.

You might say there were some very intelligent people in my pedigree. Unfortunately, my brothers, my sister, and I fell victim to a concept called generation skipping … maybe I should be speaking for myself. But all our children (the next generation) seem to be adequate in the intelligence department.

I read a marvelous book entitled “Emotional Intelligence” a few years back. It was most enlightening. It only served to confirm much of what I had already come to believe — that a healthy mental attitude has as much (or more) to do with success in life as level of intelligence.

When I was a small boy, spending weeks at a time with my maternal grandparents in Brim Hollow, I would often answer my grandmother, Lena, in the negative by saying, “Naw.”

“Naw,” she would ask. “Rats gnaw.”

I soon got the point.

Or, sometimes, when she asked me to meet a task, or fulfill a command, I would answer, “I can’t.”

“I can’t,” she would scold. “Can’t never did do anything.”

I suppose that most of my generation grew up with the story of “The Little Red Engine That Could.” You remember … “I think I can … I think I can.”

It seems to me that we are fast becoming a society filled with excuse makers. People are prone to find more reasons not to try than reasons to try. As someone has said, “If you never try, you will never know.”

I have a wonderful friend. His name is Johnnie Godwin. He is the youngest 86- year-old I have ever known. If ever there was a man with a can-do attitude, he is the man. When his company downsized many years ago and showed him the door, he never missed a beat. As a matter of fact, he went on to write a book titled, “Retirement, Life’s Best Chapter.” He later revised the title, but the message was still the same — when life gives you a lemon, you can sour, or you can make lemonade.

Well, after his retirement, when a new iPhone came out, Johnnie would hire (on a private basis) the most capable techy he could find in the IT department at Best Buy to train him on how to get the most out of his new device. It was none of this “I can’t keep up with all this new technology” for him.

A few years back, Captain D’s, the seafood restaurant, rolled out a new promotion called “We Can Do That.” It was like unto the old Burger King theme, “Have it your way.” According to the promotion, Captain D’s offered great flexibility in filling orders from its menu.

Johnnie was eating in Captain D’s one day and was admiring the promotional material strategically located on his table. It was one of those tri-angle shaped displays. And written thereon, in bold italic, were the words, “We Can Do That.”

My friend, Johnnie, ever the entrepreneur, thought that one of those displays would work well as a prop in a sermon or public speech, so he asked his waitress if he might have one when the promotion came to an end. She told him she would have to ask the manager.

The manager came, and Johnnie made his request, and this is what the manager said … “We can’t do that.”

Maybe we all should take a lesson once again from the Little Red Engine.

You can, if you think you can.

Or maybe we should take a greater lesson from Paul, the apostle.

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

Hartsville resident Jack McCall is an author and motivational speaker.

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