We Could Use Some Glad Game

This weekend our youngest daughter was battling through a horrible combination of strep throat mixed with some kind of viral croup cough, so we spent a lot of time watching her favorite movies trying to keep her mind off how horrible her throat was hurting.   One of her absolute favorite movies, other than Barbie Dream House,  is the 1960 version of "Pollyanna" so we spent some time hearing about "The Glad Game" and all the other optimistic things Pollyanna shared.  

While watching Pollyanna, the weather channel (to see what hurrican Matthew is doing) and the news it occured to me how much today's world could use some "Glad Gaming".  ALL of our current political leaders and media could take heed to what Pollyanna said was an Abraham Lincoln quote "If you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will".  Of course after I started preparing this week's Monday Morning Coffee I find out Disney actually made up the quote and it was not even a real quote by Abraham Lincoln, so much for "Disney Honest".

All that most people know about Pollyanna is that calling someone that name is not a good thing. It is an effective way to discourage someone from undertaking something overly optimistic. The reference dismisses optimism as a way to support health and happiness and build success. 

Pollyanna is the main character in the novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter, published in 1913 and the basis for a 1960 Disney movie. The title character is a young girl who, after both her parents have died, is sent to live with her only remaining relative, a reclusive and stern aunt, who reluctantly takes her into her home.

To everyone she meets, Pollyanna explains “the glad game” that her father taught her before he died. He believed that no matter what happens, there’s always something to be glad about. One should always hunt for the positive aspects in seemingly bad experiences. 

With this philosophy, Pollyanna brings gladness to her aunt’s gloomy town. The glad game shields her from her aunt’s nasty attitude: when her auntputs her in an ugly attic room with no pictures, rugs or mirrors, she is glad for it. 

Pollyanna plays the game with others too. When a man breaks his leg walking down the street, Pollyanna reminds him that he should feel glad that he only broke one leg. She tells the gardener who is complaining about his bent back that he should feel glad about it; after all, he does not have to stoop as far to do his weeding because he’s already part way there. 

Eventually, however, even Pollyanna’s robust optimism is put to the test when she falls from the roof and her legs become paralyzed. Her response, for once, seems realistic. She admits that the game is not fun if it is really hard to play.  The town-people visit her as she's leaving for the city to have surgery on her legs and cheer her up and the movie pretty much ends there.

The novel ends more complete: the aunt marries the doctor and Pollyanna is sent to a hospital where she learns to walk again, able to appreciate the use of her legs far more as a result of being temporarily disabled.

The story of Pollyanna illustrates the popular conception of “blind optimism.”  While, it's probably not a good idea to be blindly optimistic, I'd say our world sure could use a few  more people playing the glad game and being less pessamistic. 

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