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Opinionated Octogenarian 2 B, A Pollyanna Story

August 21, 2014

A Pollyanna Story

have occasionally been called a Pollyanna. But that is ridiculous. Turning Edvard Grieg’s sentences to the other side, life is not a tragedy, nor is it a comedy. Life is neither funny nor sad, it’s ridiculous. Remaining optimistic is difficult when happy endings seem remote. Although occasionally I have been known to maximize situations, I have sometimes been known to minimize them. To ignore warnings by minimizing them is sometimes as foolish as maximizing them.

Under clouds of ominous portants, what does a Pollyanna do? The little girl in Eleanor Porter’s popular 1913 novel, Pollyanna, looks on the bright side. Eleven sequels followed the novel, only one written by Eleanor Porter (1868-1920). The books have been popular for over 100 years, translated into many languages, and made into movies and plays. They carry a cheerful philosophy that endures.

Under the clouds of 1913, when shadows of World War 1 began in Europe, when our society was becoming industrialized and urbanized, when religion was being challenged, and the automobile was reaching speeds of more than six miles an hour, Eleanor Porter wrote about an orphaned child, whose cheerful attitude touched the hears of children and adults. Pollyanna was excessively and always glad, a game her father taught her before he died. When Pollyanna was hoping for a doll from the misssionary barrel, she found only a pair of crutches. Her father told her to be glad she didn’t have to use them. Finding some good in everything became her mantra.

Later, as an orphan living with a dour aunt, Pollyanna remained glad, glad, GLAD. She believed in a better tomorrow. She did not worry about feeding the homeless hungry in Europe and Asia, but helped the Ladies Aide Society find a home with a lonely man for a hungry little boy. Centered on her neighbors, her cheerful disposition and good works were gratefully received. People responded to pay her back after she lost the use of her legs in an auto accident. When she was able to walk again, she appreciated her legs more. Even her pessimistic aunt became a cheerful giver and a happier person under the tutelage of Pollyanna. I do admire cheerful people and happy endings.

Pollyanna was a young girl, and possibly it is more difficult to remain cheerful as I grow older. It is hard to wear a smiley face and be glad when I attend more funerals than christenings and see friends in ill health, in distress, and facing pecuniary embarrassment. It is difficult to minimize these problems, but then good cheer and optimism become scarce and more valuable.

George and Ira Gershwin wrote in their song But Not For Me, I never want to hear from any cheerful Pollyannas, who tell me fate supplies a mate. That’s all bananas.” Possibly that pessimistic attitude will not attract a companion. I can enjoy the music without commenting on the lyrics. The song of love is not a sad song, except perhaps in the 1952 movie, Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo.

Ups and downs, ins and outs, forwards and backwards. When you look for the good, you will find it. Sometimes we seniors with poor vision misplace our glasses.and do not see the good in front of us. Conversely, look for the bad and it will find you. The dark side of life can approach with a vengeance and make itself known.

The Romans saw life as a two-sided coin, with a mask of tragedy on one side and a mask of comedy on the other. Pain and gain vie for supremacy. My two stories suggest I examine incidents with empirical evidence and caution and not jump to fatalistic judgments and conclusions like a little chicken. Like Pollyanna I can remain optimistic, even in fearful circumstances. One can help make tomorrow better, or at least minimize the falling skies in an ordinary life.

But what will happen when Chicken Little meets Pollyanna?

stay tuned – to be contd.




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