In the Children's Movie Pollyanna, the title character is a young orphan girl who goes to live with her wealthy but stern Aunt Polly.
Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centered on what she called “The Glad Game,” an optimistic attitude she had learned from her father. The game consisted of finding something to be happy about, especially in unfavorable situations.
Pollyanna’s father had struggled to make a living as a minister of a poor congregation. One Christmas the only source of special treats and gifts for him and Pollyanna was the contents of a missionary barrel given to them by their parishioners. The dearest wish on Pollyanna’s heart was for a doll, but as the various second-hand items in the barrel were examined, all that was found for her was a pair of child’s crutches. Seeing his daughter’s keen disappointment, her father made up the game up on the spot.
“Let’s find something to be glad about,” he suggested. deciding they were both glad pollyanna didn’t need the crutches made them laugh, and suddenly the disappointment and sadness was lifted. It was a lesson Pollyanna never forgot.
Over time, with this philosophy and her own sunny personality, Pollyanna inspired positive changes in the lives of the residents of her aunt’s dispirited New England town. The glad game also shielded her from her aunt’s dour attitude. When Aunt Polly assigned her a stuffy attic room without carpets or pictures to be her bedroom, Pollyanna exulted at the beautiful view from the high window. When Pollyanna was punished for being late to dinner and sentenced to a meal of bread and milk in the kitchen with the servant, Pollyanna thanked her aunt rapturously, stating, “I just love bread and milk!”
Soon Pollyanna taught some of the town’s most troubled inhabitants to play the game as well—from a querulous invalid named Mrs. Snow to a miserly bachelor, Mr. Pendleton, who lived all alone in a cluttered mansion. Aunt Polly, too, found herself helpless before Pollyanna’s buoyant refusal to be downcast and gradually began to thaw, although she resisted the game longer than anyone else. The story goes on to show how quality of life remarkably improved for each one who chose to see life in a more positive perspective.
It's a Simple Choice
It can be a real challenge at times to “be joyful always” and to “give thanks in all circumstances.” But if we choose to engage in a bit of detective work and carefully examine our situations, we will uncover hidden happiness treasures here and there, things which we can be glad about—blessings, if you will, coming from god’s own hand. Looking at the bright side can have the following benefits:
- Lead us to a more balanced perception of a situation
- Aid in our ability to cope
- Decrease the negative effects of stress on our health
- Create an uplifting influence on others
- Encourage an overall longer and more satisfying life
- Reinforce our attitude of gratitude
- Renew our awareness of God’s presence and sustaining care
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
I was working a normal busy day in the emergency department when the call came. My pregnant daughter, across the continent, was in a life-and-death crisis. As sad as it was to lose our precious prematurely born granddaughter, I later could see how God showed His compassion and care during this experience, as demonstrated in the following ways:
1. A sympathetic nursing director who released me from the rest of my shift,
2. The lunch-relief nurse who stayed the rest of the day to care for my patients,
3. The airline company that granted me an immediate reservation on a flight departing within a few hours with no extra charge,
4. The unexpected appearance of a dear friend at my front door, who came to help me pack and take me to the airport,
5. The relief of finding my daughter, quite ill but in a stable and recovering condition at her hospital,
6. The comfort of a kind hospital chaplain who had been a very present support to my daughter and her husband during the death of their baby,
7. The speed with which arrangements were made for my husband to join us from his international travel itinerary, and
8. The support and help we received from friends and family in the immediate days that followed assisting with funeral arrangements, food, and emotional encouragement.
As anguishing as the experience was, when I look back it’s easy to see that God didn’t leave us alone in the valley of the shadows. He provided glimpses of His love and care all along the way. Our Creator knew from the very beginning that an attitude of gratitude is needed by both children and adults in order to triumphantly weather the storms of life. The Glad Game (or the Gratitude Game) is just what we need in order to be happy, healthy, and whole. As we express our love and gratitude to Him, He fills us with peace and even joy through life’s up-and-down journey.
“It’s easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings.”—from the poem “Be Thankful,” author unknown