Being a Pollyanna in a Pandemic is not Easy!
It's trying times for optimists! With a pandemic, social unrest, global uncertainty and economic downturns, how does one stay uplifted this summer? Owning a "Glad Shop" in the Glad Town of Littleton, New Hampshire is making me dig deep to find something to be glad about these days. As the Annual June Pollyanna Glad Day came and went this year, without the usual fanfare and cake, it was a little harder for all of us to find something to be glad about, but we did.
The author of Pollyanna was born in Littleton, New Hampshire and the story has stood the test of times since it was published in 1913. The famous story is about a poor orphan girl who was sent to live with her grouchy Aunt Polly in a small New England town resembling Littleton. Little Pollyanna had recently lost her father and owned nothing but the ratty dress she wore on the train. To cope with all the loss in her life, her father had taught her to play the "Glad Game" and she was quick to teach the locals how to play the game with her. The objective of the game is to find one thing to be glad about each day. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less, just one little thing that you can claim to be glad about. The gladness caught on around the town and even old Aunt Polly lightened up after a while. The story goes on and I won't ruin the ending for those who haven't read it yet, but the story has been analyzed and characterized since its publication. There are many books and articles written about the "Pollyanna" attitude and its effects on culture and society.
I am an optimist, always have and hope always will. Sometimes, I'm sneered at or criticized for being too "Pollyannaish". Some think being happy means you are not paying attention to all the hurt in the world and wearing "rose colored glasses". But that's not the case. The Pollyannas in the world face hard times and have sad feelings too. The storybook Pollyanna had really tough times, yet she just kept on playing that glad game and found that life was a little brighter when others played along too.
As owner of the GoLittleton Glad Shop, and with the annual Pollyanna Day festivities cancelled, it was difficult how to approach June and the re-opening of the shop during the pandemic. But I found I wasn't alone, the whole glad town was figuring it out and wasn't going to let these tough times get us down! My friends helped me re-design the shop for safe shopping, the town put up flowers to cheer up the downtown, other shopkeepers opened their doors for the first time since March and restaurants figured out how to let us dine out safely. Then the postcards started arriving. An Arts Program in Massachusetts decided to play the Glad Game in May and sent postcards, addressed to Pollyanna, stating one cheerful thing they are glad about. The postcards gave me the lift I needed to face Glad Day and it was a sign that I wasn't alone in looking for a few bright spots during this Scary Spring.
On the official Glad Day, The Pollyanna Sculpture shone in the sunshine with balloons and flowers, cheerfully welcoming visitors. The Glad Shop was clean and ready for customers. The downtown was open for business, and then....they came. Visitors from all over the state made a trip to Littleton that day to share in the gladness. They stopped in the shop for a Pollyanna souvenir and we made each other laugh with glad jokes. Everyone acknowledged the tough times, but were up for playing the Glad Game and finding something to be glad about.
The day was much quieter than Pollyanna Days in the past, but in some ways, it was more heartening. It has been such a tough spring for all and so many of us are searching for some bright spots in the darkness. I know I am.
Personally, I'm still heartbroken over losing my mother last year and her birthday is right around the annual glad day. We always celebrated it together, so this year was going to be a challenge to face without her. My mother was a true Pollyanna. She struggled with asthma her whole life, had tough losses and deaths, yet she always looked for the bright side of things and encouraged others to do the same. So as I prepared for June with a heavy heart and uncertainty, I decided to embrace this unique Glad Day however it turned out. With no expectations, I was inspired and glad to learn that the 100-year-old story still holds true today. It taught me that we can do both. We can face tough challenges, be honest about the tough road ahead and still look for a little gladness each day.
Veronica Francis is the owner of the GoLittleton.com Glad Shop in Downtown Littleton, New Hampshire and is Proud to be a Pollyanna.