Monday, May 31, 2010

Pollyanna: Rejoice!

I recently purchased Thomas D. Williams' A Heart Like His to read in June in honor of the Sacred Heart.

So I was happy to finish reading today the children's classic Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. I've always enjoyed the Disney film but I'd never read the book.

I must say I found the book delightful. It is a very enjoyable children's book and well worth the read. Pollyanna is a simply delightful 11 year old who strives to find something to be glad about in everything and always looks for the best in everyone. Admirable character indeed! Imagine if everyone did just that!

Pollyanna's "Glad Game" gives children (and adults alike) a wonderful foundation for building upon joy and gratitude in everything that life and God bring. I say build upon because Pollyanna is not yet able to find gratitude in suffering itself but only in the lack of it. When she has her accident, she does not thank God for an opportunity to suffer, but for when she didn't suffer. Still, her joy is contagious and indeed helps everyone around her. Her charity is truly exemplary and even contagious. One character compares Pollyanna to "the very finest prism." Aren't we called to be "the light of the world?" Pollyanna's joy radiates Christian love and simple gratitude and I can't imagine the child who wouldn't benefit from reading this book.

Yesterday at Mass, I began to get frustrated at a father and two young girls in the pew behind us. They had toys and pretzels. But I had been reading Pollyanna on the way to Church and found myself simply being glad that they were at Church at all. And, whereas I might otherwise have gone through all of Mass annoyed and frustrated, I actually found myself rather cheerful. I wouldn't know, but I have to wonder how children and families would benefit from playing the "Glad Game." I'm likewise wondering if it might be helpful on those days where I'd swear my children, yes, even Elizabeth, are in a conspiracy to drive me to the brink of my sanity and the edge of my patience. Wouldn't just being glad God gave me my children put things in a very different perspective?

How often do we look for the best in others? It is so easy to criticize and sometimes constructive criticism is helpful, but how often do we compliment and encourage, especially compared to how often we criticize and correct? It can be all in how it is said and done. I've noticed my children react differently to the same request if it is said differently. There is a big difference between "How many times have I told you not to leave X on the floor?" and "Please pick up X as I know you wouldn't want someone to hurt themselves on it." None of us are as God wants us to be. Every one of us falls short. But how much more helpful would it be to encourage closing the gap instead of pointing out how far we have fallen short?

I do not say this often, easily or lightly, but there ways in which the film improves upon the book. The book is only 190 pages and has such wonderful characters that you only see a few times. The movie gives you many more opportunities to fall in love with all the characters. The manner in which Pollyanna gets hurt is also very different but I can likewise understand why Disney changed it. Even I found the way in which she gets hurt in the book on the disturbing side, but I think the times may have effected that. I won't spoil it for anyone who hasn't read it, but you can bet, when they are old enough, my girls will be reading this book.
"Instead of always harping on a man's faults, tell him of his virtues. Try to pull him out of his rut of bad habits. Hold up to him his better self, his real self that can dare and do and win out!"
"When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good - you will get that."

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