In Pictou County: is the glass half full or half empty?

Published on February 5, 2014

‘If winter comes, can spring be far behind?’

Percy Bysshe Shelley English poet (1792 - 1822)


For many of us, the beginning of winter is not a time to celebrate! Having survived heavy snowfalls, freezing rain, black ice and treacherous roads we have, at last, entered the month of February. If February comes, can spring now be far behind?  Let’s be as optimistic as Percy Shelley; let the glass be half full.

Many residents of Pictou County rejoice when winter begins! They enjoy the snow, skiing, ice fishing, snowboarding, outdoor skating, sledding, snowmobiling. Many Pictou County snowbirds use winter months for their annual escape to Florida.

A few years ago when we were enjoying an almost snowless winter, I mentioned how much I was enjoying the winter to a waitress at a local eatery. Her reply, “Not a great winter if your husband plows driveways for a living.” My winter glass was half full; hers was half empty.

The idiom, “Is your glass half full or half empty” is a most useful one. It helps to illustrate that any situation can be viewed from different viewpoints and it does help to categorize people: some individuals are optimistic (positive), some are pessimistic (negative). We realize that, mathematically speaking, the two are equal; the expression is not a measure of quantity but a reflection of attitude.

You will undoubtedly be familiar with the letter to the editor columns in our local newspapers. Contributors are perhaps more inclined to write when they want to raise a concern; however, many seize the opportunity to celebrate people and events that enrich our lives. The minute you recognize some signatures, you know immediately that the glass will be half full.

Recently, the local media have raised the growing concern of so many empty commercial buildings throughout the county; the glass seems to be half empty. It was interesting to read the article written by Adam MacInnis, “New Glasgow sees potential as businesses move” in the Dec. 29, 2013, edition of The News. When asked if the empty buildings pose a concern, New Glasgow CAO, Lisa MacDonald is reported as saying “No. I think it’s a transition point,” she said. “I think there’s still obviously value in some of those buildings.” She is, of course, correct; there is a great deal of potential in many of the vacant buildings. One would hope that the CAO of New Glasgow would be an optimist when speaking of New Glasgow’s future; her glass is definitely half full!

The half full, half empty glass idiom is used frequently in the media as revealed in the following headlines: “Is the public sector glass half-full, or half-empty?” (Michael Gorman, Chronicle Herald, Aug. 20, 2013) and “Tar ponds work: half full or half empty?” (Elizabeth Patterson,  Cape Breton Post, May 16, 2013). Local journalist Monica Graham dealt with the idiom in an article, “Good deeds will help fill your glass”  for the Chronicle Herald (October 13, 2012). She states: 


“It’s better to see the glass is never completely full, because life enlarges as we fill it with good things. A glass half full is about counting blessings and making room for more. Sometimes, life’s disappointments paralyze us so we can’t recognize opportunities in emptiness.”

For people of faith, the idiom is reflected in our first response in the morning. Do we say, “Good-morning, God” or “Good God, it’s morning”?

How do we view the world? Our viewpoint will colour our daily responses to others.

The optimist says the glass is half full.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty.

The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow.

The cynic wonders who drank the other half.

The shopper wants to know the cost of the glass.

The scientist says it's not about whether the glass is half empty or half full, it's whether there is something in the glass at all.

The worrier is concerned that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning.

The actor says, "Whatever the director wants it to be – or not to be..."

The magician will unveil the glass with the full half at the top.

You may, of course, be asking, “Who owns the glass?”

It’s February; Valentine’s Day is a perfect occasion to put aside winter ‘blahs’, to count our blessings, to reach out to others, to ensure that our glasses are half full and perhaps in the process help others realize that their glasses are also half full.

George R. Henaut is a resident of New Glasgow; an author/playwright, a retired educator involved in local theatre and church/community groups.