When I was 10, I watched a movie that helped transform me from a sad and sullen child into one who viewed the world in a more positive light. That movie was simply titled, “Pollyanna”. Originally a children’s novel written by Eleanor H. Porter in 1913, it became a beloved classic.
Pollyanna was an orphan who came through adverse circumstances to land in a village filled with gloom and cantankerous people. Life was not easy for Pollyanna, yet she shone with this bright spirit of optimism and hope. She saw the good in everyone and looked for the silver lining in every black cloud.
The Merriam-webster.com dictionary defines Pollyanna: a person characterized by irrepressible optimism and a tendency to find good in everything.
In my thirties, a new female colleague accused me of having a very “Pollyanna attitude”. I bristled at her derogatory tone. Overnight I thought long and hard about what she had said, wondering if there was something wrong with being a “Pollyanna”.
By morning, I confessed to myself that I was, indeed, a “Pollyanna”. I also realized that she had given me the biggest gift in reminding me of my cherished outlook on life. What’s good about me is my extreme optimism. Friends have commented on it more than once. That mindset has seen me through every adversity I have faced in life – from my mother’s death when I was a teenager to two recent bouts of cancer.
As part of that outlook, I also honor my ability to see not just the good, but the magnificence in other people. Sure there’s bad behavior out there, but I choose to see beyond that. We are all inherently great, and we need the help of everyone around us to bring out our best.
Over the years, the idea of extreme optimism has fallen out of favor as an air of cynicism pervades our world. It appears that we see only extreme problems and thus lose hope in our ability to solve them. “Reality” TV shows the world and people in a very bad light. But is that what’s really going on?
Stop for a minute and look around you. Who do you know, by word or deed, that portrays Pollyanna optimism and refuses to give in to the negative. Get closer to them. I guarantee that spirit will rub off!
By the way – if you have kids or grand kids – buy the book and read it to them. They will love it. And if you have an optimistic story of your own, I’d love to hear it.