Negative voices can be heard ringing through the world right now. This is not a political or some sort of cause type of post. This is a conflict of another kind. It is the struggle for good and light over something that may seem trivial, but really is consequential. In recent days I have heard, more than once, “I am not “Pollyanna”! I do not only look at the good side of things.” I am saddened by the negativity about such an incredible young girl. As if focusing on blessings is shameful and a waste of time. So, though this may seem trite, hear me out as I defend and advocate for the life message of a Pollyanna. A message that changed a town just by showing them that perspective matters. In these, our dark, scary current times, where the news has nothing of hope or light in it, we need Pollyanna more than ever. Let me show you why this “Pollyanna Perspective” should be something we want to seek.
If you want to see what I am talking about, you should definitely go to your “Disney +” account and watch this classic movie. It’s old school, but therein lies the charm. They, quite frankly, were simpler times.
Recently, I watched the movie again, wanting to give a well-rounded report on why she impacted me at such a young age. In the first moments of the film, you see old fashioned cars, kids climbing trees, all the women in fancy dresses, wearing gloves, and lovely hats. Throughout the show, the children go fishing on a Sunday with a pail full of worms and a stick for a pole. They eat fried chicken and have ice cream on Sundays. They visit people who are low in spirit, thus creating relationships wherever they go. PollyAnna becomes a bright spot in a dismal town. The film is light. And light is what I chase.
If you’re paying attention you can see through the movie that PollyAnna had EVERY reason in the world to be depressed, downtrodden, with no zeal for life. Her parents were killed, and she was orphaned. She tells a story of wanting a doll and instead, she gets crutches. All she ever knew was hand-me-downs clothing from the church donations. Her clothing is too big and not in the current fashion. Yet, these things did not drag her down. Why? Because, she was taught by her loving father, a Preacher of God, the power of attitude and gratitude. Attitude is everything. Gratitude gives a significant mental boost for those suffering with anxiety and depression. The science is there. Don’t we need that these days? You can be changed when you alter your mindset or attitude and the way in which you confront struggles or approach life.
Lessons to be Learned
There are so many lessons learned through the themes, the storyline, and the characters. Among a few of them that have stuck with me over the years, I learned to play the glad game, to find the good in people, to think about living not dying, and to always take sunshine and flowers to those who are not happy or well. Even if they don’t want them.
1. The Glad Game - The Glad Game is essentially taking stock of your blessings. Also known as gratitude or counting your blessings. We now know that listing out what you feel makes your life positive and worth living gives the human mind and heart hope. Hope is light in the darkness, even darkness of the mind or spirit. I aspire to always be glad that I have a beautiful home, excellent family and friends, a job that supports and sustains us, rather than succumbing to the mental darkness that takes over when I do not take my medication.
Granted, I could just be angry all the time that I have to take pills to function normally. (Which I spent a lot of years doing. Fighting the meds and the persona of not being normal, and being crazy). I grew up in a time when mental health wasn’t talked about or popular. It was tough. Over the years I have come to value being able to leave my house to teach, shop, socialize instead of hiding in the darkness of my mind and room. I am GLAD I live in a time that pills, therapy, and a multitude of psychological studies help me to function like everyone else. The Glad (gratitude) Game will change your life. I promise.
2. Finding the Good in People - this lesson has served me well. I remember as a teen going through a phase where I absolutely hated my parents. I know this now to be a pretty normal time in a young adult’s life. But, I REALLY hated my parents. They got divorced when I was 12. My mother tells me I had always been a nurturing spirit, but I remember being bitter at 18 that I had spent most of my life taking care of my younger siblings. I felt my responsibilities worsened when my parents ended their marriage. I didn’t really know who I was or what I wanted outside of what others expected of me. Newly graduated from high school, I went a little over the edge trying to figure it out.
One day, later in my first marriage, I realized that my parents were just people doing the best they could. They were just like me trying to find my way through parenting and cohabitation. Sorting out how to hold on to myself while merging my life into a marriage with two very different people. In that moment I forgave them and found the good in them. I let them be human, and have always tried to do the same with those people who surround me, aggravate me, or make me angry with their own demons. Finding the Good in people, I learned that from Pollyanna.
3. Think About Living NOT Dying - This one is huge and until I hit my 40’s, I don’t think I really got this. I spent some of the best parts of my life wanting to die. I felt so different from everyone else, so flawed. I was either up or I was down. I didn’t know how to function at an even level. I self-medicated with lots of sugar and caffeine all through high school to maintain the energy I needed to. I didn’t understand that it was okay to be down sometimes. I didn’t have the skills to pull myself out of the dark downtimes. When I turned 18 it got the worst of me. I attempted to commit harm for the first time. After years of just “thinking about dying” I started to act it out. I am a proud survivor of three suicide attempts throughout my life, of which I was hospitalized over.
It wasn’t until I basically lost everything, my children, my shoestring of sanity, my marriage, and my faith, that I realized I HAD to stop thinking about dying and start thinking about living! There is a very important moment in the book or movie “Pollyanna,” when she tells a woman who is always ill that she must do the same. And she does. So I did. I found my purpose, my why, my I have to. It was my children. I began living and fighting for them. Find your why friends. Find your purpose. Then think about living your best life and stop thinking about dying. All you have is right now, so make the most of it. Cliche, I know.
4. Always Take Sunshine and Flowers to Those Who Need it - even if they don’t want it. To me this is simple. It is the age-old message taught to us by our savior Jesus Christ to serve others. When you serve others you don’t have time to worry about yourself. When you give yourself away to someone in need, your cup is filled. I find this every day as I work in the public field of teaching. I have been teaching for 13 years, and every time I reach a child who is lost, lonely, struggling, or just looking for the kindness they are lacking, my cup runneth over. They don’t have to verbalize their gratitude, I don’t need a thank you. I can see it as their step lightens, they go forward with purpose knowing that someone believes in them and that is always enough.
It is the same when we serve our fellow man. We are all consumed with ourselves in this current culture we are living in. There is so much darkness, hate, and ugliness in our world right now. It really makes it hard to be positive, find light or hope. What if we all started serving each other more? What if we listened more and talked less. How much better would the world be if we “seek to understand” as we serve others? I am not the first, nor the last to say, we must stop being focused on self and serve. It DOES make a difference. Not only in the lives of those we serve, but in our own. It changes everything.
Light the Way
In summation, I hope you can see the merit to the story of “Pollyanna.” Even at the end of the show, when she wants to give up because of a tragic accident, you see that all the good you create and give out, lights the way for others. In return, they perpetuate that light and illuminate the way for you when your days become dark again. Dark days will come again. They will. However, you control what you let in and out. You can learn to filter out the negative and live a Pollyanna Perspective kind of life my friends. Being aware of the world but not being "in it." And believe me when I tell you, that there is nothing wrong with Pollyanna's way of living. Give the girl some props for being ahead of her time. The lessons of gratitude, looking for the good in people, living life to the fullest and sharing your gifts, along with serving others, these are the traits that can light our way in a darkening world full of hate and hurt.