“We are all of us in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at stars” Oscar Wilde
Many of us tend to forget optimism is often a choice. I know I do. But we can choose how we perceive things. Like the blind men and the elephant, our reality is molded by what is around us and what we decide to do with the information we are given. We tend to form camps of like-minded and often cast aspersions on the other. On one side you have the cynics or “downers”. The other side is the “Pollyanna’s”
Did you know that the term Pollyanna is actually based on a character in a famous children’s book? Written in 1913 by New Hampshire writer Eleanor Hodgman Porter, Pollyanna Whittier is an orphan who is sent to live with her bitter and cruel aunt Polly. Before his death, Pollyanna’s father had taught her to play a “glad game” where she would try to find something positive in every situation. Her father believed that in doing so she could train her mind to “manifest’ good things out of bad. Pollyanna’s steadfast refusal to accept the negative begins to win converts in her adopted hometown. Even her Aunt Polly eventually succumbs after Pollyanna temporarily loses the use of her legs but remains cheerful.
The book became so popular it became the first of thirteen in a series. The book’s success also led to several feature films. While still in print today the book’s most lasting legacy may be that the term “Pollyanna” has become a noun. Today the name is a shorthand pejorative term for someone who is overly optimistic. Pollyanna’s are so sanguine that they are incapable of seeing things from a realistic perspective. They are cloyingly optimistic. The older I get the less I see the word as an insult. I tend to believe like attracts like. If you are negative you attract negativity the opposite also holds true. While some may blanch at the term others see it as a badge of honor. They gladly wear on their sleeve right next to their heart.
Eleanor Hodgman Porter’s hometown of Littleton, New Hampshire chose to see the term as a compliment. Each year on the weekend nearest June 8th they have “Glad Day” with a parade and festival. There’s even a statue of ‘Pollyanna” near the public library. Her arms open and smile beaming it’s hard to see the statue and not have some of that cheer rub off on you.