Monday, October 12, 2009

The Glad Game

Last night our daughters snuggled up in Mama's bed for an old-school Sunday night movie: Pollyanna. I could recall few details from the film except that Pollyanna was a super happy young lady and something bad happened to her.

As the term "Pollyanna" has come to have such a negative (because of its excessively positive?) connotation, I was curious to see if the title character was getting a bad rap or if her good cheer was genuinely annoying. So I cozied up with my girls for a little nostalgic walk down Buena Vista lane.

My analysis: If you're a Hayley Mills fan, an optimist, or planning to name your baby "Pollyanna," I'm pleased to tell you that the protagonist, known for "pestering people all over town with her sunshine and happiness," is a worthy hero.

Sure, she can put a dubiously positive spin on the most dreary of drags, but she's also a sort of Ass Kicker of Crankpots. In a key scene in the movie, Pollyanna takes off her white gloves and tells off a hypochondriac old biddy: "You could be GLAD you don't need this horrid old coffin! You could forget about dying and be glad you're LIVING!"

And you know, it's hard not to feel your fist pump a bit in solidarity, for haven't we all wanted to implore a Grump Grouch to lighten up, already? SHEESH!

Pollyanna teaches the citizens of her town The Glad Game, which she learned after some missionaries sent her a pair of crutches instead of the doll she coveted. "We could be glad you don't need them," her father helpfully suggests to his disappointed daughter, thereby establishing a new cheery way of looking at life's lemons.

But then her dad dies. And later Pollyanna falls out of a tree and her legs are paralyzed. So, yup, in an ironic twist, those crutches suddenly become useful. Well, that is, if she's lucky and the surgery works. The movie ends and we're left wondering. (Oh, and by the way? Six-year-olds are troubled by unresolved endings. Very troubled! You could be glad you don't have to worry about your six-year-old worrying about Pollyanna if you don't have a six-year-old!)

But anyways, the real point here is, in these tough times, what with Global Warming and The Recession and Swine Flu and Afghanistan and your own Personal Troubles and then Obama trying to give us all Health Care and winning the Peace Prize, we could all use a little daily glad, dontcha think? Perhaps somewhere between Chicken Little ("The sky is falling!") and Voltaire's Pangloss ("It's all for the best!") is the appropriate mix of doom and hope.

Now, admonishments to "buck up, little camper" are more easily swallowed when they are delivered by a perky little girl than from a well-intending neighbor reminding one that, "Hey, at least your whole house didn't burn down!" Which is why it's best if we all simply play an internal form of The Glad Game. Unless, of course, you're hanging on a cross and can muster up a rousing chorus of "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

So, if your inner Eeyore is getting the best of you, make like Pollyanna, who suggested to those looking for something about Sunday to be glad about (I guess Sunday sucked in the olden days) that "we could be glad that the next Sunday is six whole days away!"

Flash a peace sign at that road rager in the next lane; smile sweetly at those who cluck disapprovingly at you and yours; express sincere gratitude to those who serve begrudgingly.

Tinge your cynicism with humor, laugh at your minor misfortunes, and remind yourself, Hey! I could be glad it's not worse!


Justine said...

Your post made me smile! My husband is paralyzed and he is the ultimate optimist! Keeps our whole family balanced...guess he's our "Pollyanna."

Kris said...

No Debbie Downers here!!! Wah-Wahhhhh