Lessons from Pollyanna

Another book finished! Madilynn and I greatly enjoy our time listening to stories together. I’m providing a classical education in the form of entertainment. The best part is sharing a love for reading as we imagine the lives of the characters while spending hours together in the car.

Pollyanna is an orphan who comes to live with her only remaining relative, Aunt Polly. Eleanor H. Porter brings the characters to life, describing the personalities of everyone in the town in such a way that you almost see them (or can call to mind someone like them). Before listening to the book, my only remembrance of Pollyanna is the Haley Mills movie (which is not much like the book). 

Living is more than “just breathing”

Pollyanna, like Anne of Green Gables or Sarah in A Little Princess, has a wonderful imagination and zest for life. When eleven-year-old Pollyanna is confronted with a scheduled life, she tells her aunt that there isn’t any time to live. Aunt Polly says that of course, she’ll be living because she’s breathing. Pollyanna responds, “Just breathing isn’t living!” Though initially, Aunt Polly attempted to keep this regime, the high energy Pollyanna proved to need much more activity. Pollyanna then shared her life and energy with the whole town.

Grief requires discussion

Pollyanna comes to her aunt following the death of her father. Aunt Polly held a grudge against Pollyanna’s father for taking her sister away from her in the first place. She forbids Pollyanna to talk about the man (at least to her). Pollyanna tells many other people about her father and the “glad game.” She expresses, in ways that only children can, “I just can’t make myself understand that God and the angels needed my father more than I did.” Some well-meaning adults phrase things in ways that actually make the loss more difficult. Too often when people don’t know how to deal with another’s grief, they respond like Aunt Polly, refusing to talk about it. Children especially need to talk through their grief. It will seem like it encompasses every part of their lives, including their play – and that is okay!

Being Glad is a Choice

Pollyanna’s father invented a “glad game” to teach Pollyanna that attitude is a choice. You can sulk about all the things you don’t have OR you can rejoice over what you do have. You can wallow in self-pity OR you can live and share joy with others. When the town’s minister is struggling over his sermon and how to confront his congregation, Pollyanna shares that her father was also a minister and that when he was struggling, he focused on the “rejoicing texts.” The minister seems confused until Pollyanna explains it’s those verses that tell us to rejoice and be glad in the Lord. Her father had counted 800 of these texts! Mindset Management“… if God took the trouble to tell us eight hundred times to be glad and rejoice, He must want us to do it—SOME,” she tells the minister. This simple statement changed the minister’s mindset and sermon. Later he reads this article, setting up a sermon to encourage rather than chastise his congregants. 

“What men and women need is encouragement. Their natural resisting powers should be strengthened, not weakened…. 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! … The influence of a beautiful, helpful, hopeful character is contagious, and may revolutionize a whole town…. People radiate what is in their minds and in their hearts. If a man feels kindly and obliging, his neighbors will feel that way, too, before long. But if he scolds and scowls and criticizes—his neighbors will return scowl for scowl, and add interest! … When you look for the bad, expecting it, you will get it. When you know you will find the good—you will get that…”

Focusing on the good does not make the bad things go away, but it does shift your mindset. A positive mindset and willing attitude do more good than a negative outlook that prefers to sulk and do nothing. Rejoice and be glad! Take courage and keep moving forward!

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