Ever since being asked on a radio show how Revolutionary Agreements distinguishes itself from “Pollyanna” self-help books, I’ve been troubled.
Pollyanna got a bad rap.
As the 12-year old heroine of Eleanor Porter’s wildly popular 1913 novel, Pollyanna gave us so much hope and inspiration that adults formed “Glad Clubs” all over the country to play the “Glad Game” her dad had taught her: how to discover something to be glad about in the midst of something we’re sad about.
Years later, someone twisted Pollyanna’s gift of infectious optimism into a perversely negative connotation. Now we often hear it said with scorn, “Don’t be such a Pollyanna.”
What the world needs now is MORE, not less Pollyannas.
The character of Pollyanna is neither blindly optimistic nor without struggle. Instead, she is a model of seeing blessings in disguise in the midst of adversity, and of seeing the best in people—releasing the light and love buried in the hearts of even her most crotchety community members.
Ok, ok… so she is just a character in a book. How could anybody really rise above the challenges she faced: motherless at an early age, fathered by a poor minister with too little money to properly clothe her, sentenced to live in a hot, bare attic room in the home of her bitter, spinster aunt after her father died… and the list goes on. (For the whole story, read it online for free at: http://www.classicreader.com/booktoc.php/sid.3/bookid.1368/ )
I can tell you a true story of one person who rose above seemingly insurmountable struggles to become a beacon of light for all those who were blessed by his presence: my father.
Dad was a hardworking, caring, and compassionate man known by his friends as “Honest Abe.” He was a model of positive thinking in action. Indeed, because of his optimism, I knew nothing about his horrific trials and tribulations until his sister enlightened me in my thirties.
At the tender age of three, my father lost his mother to tuberculosis, and he was placed in an orphanage. When his eldest sister could no longer stand the heart-wrenching stories of his abuse in foster homes, she begged their father to allow this youngest of five children to return home vowing that she would be responsible for little Abie.
In his twenties, my father served our country on the front lines of WWII, witnessing daily the horror of death as his friends fell to enemy bullets. He ended his tour by liberating the Dachau concentration camp. Just last year I saw for the first time the photos he had taken of skeletons piled high outside the crematorium. I can only imagine how these images were emblazoned into his memory—they will never leave mine. Before and after the war, dad continued working hard, helping his father to run the family farm.
Not once did I hear him complain about his life.
My father had plenty of excuses to act like a “victim;” instead, he chose to act like Pollyanna. Perhaps because of his struggles, he appreciated more fully every moment of life. The ripples of his genuine delight in his family, friends, nature, and opportunities to learn and grow spread to all around him, touching us immeasurably.
Although he had never heard of the Revolutionary Agreements, my “Pollyanna” father was my greatest mentor for actually living them. Through him I realize now the power symbolized by this fictional heroine, and the gift each of us can give to those we touch with this power. The next time I’m asked if I’m being a Pollyanna, I think I’ll say “yes.” Indeed, I’ll shout it out with joy!
Find us on
- Archived Newsletters
- Blessings in Disguise
- Give and Receive Thanks
- Health & Wellness
- Honor our Choices
- Lighten Up!
- Listen with Heart
- Look Within When I React
- Respect our Differences
- See the Best in Self/Others
- Social Entrepreneurship
- Speak Truth with Compassion