One of my favorite childhood movies was the Disney production, Pollyanna; a whimsical story of a little orphan girl being shipped to her grouchy aunt and turning the town upside-down with her positive attitude encouraging everyone to play the glad game. This game is always looking for the good in people and in life.
The principle of the game is actually referred to as the Pollyanna Principle referring to people who always have a positive attitude even in negative situations. It is interesting that if one is referred to as behaving like a Pollyanna, it is often not a compliment. The inference is that this person is not in touch with reality and refuses to own to the seriousness of any given situation.
The conclusion of the movie would support this inference as sweet little Pollyanna is whisked off on a train on her way to surgery on her spine because she is paralyzed from a fall. She is smiling and waving, hugging her now not grouchy aunt. She is oblivious to the fact that she will be knocked out, cut open and has slim hopes of ever walking again. So, the cynic would lament.
Why could Pollyanna smile and wave in such dire circumstances? Was it because she was going to have steak and ice cream every day? Was it because the town was all happy and glad because of her influence and they came out in droves with presents and well wishes of good health? Was it because she finally had the love of her Aunt Polly?
Or was it something else? Something much deeper and fuller and stellar? Something the producers hinted at, but didn’t, for whatever reason, really give clarity to?
Pollyanna’s deceased father was a minister. Of what denomination we don’t know, though the minister of the town was probably Episcopalian. In a scene between this minister and Pollyanna she tells him why she started playing the glad game. She tells him that there are 800 happy texts in the Bible. He looks at her blankly and she says, “You know. ‘Rejoice in the Lord’ or ‘Shout for joy’.” The scene goes on and ends with the minister alone in the field with the realization that he was in the pocket of the grouchy, cynical aunt and he was a grouchy and cynical preacher.
These wonderful Scriptural passages are overshadowed by the overriding theme of the movie that everyone has good in them and if we just search for it all that good will simply overflow. Amazing how an important biblical truth can be twisted to appease man’s lust for himself.
Man is not basically good. He is evil. “All have sinned”, “The heart is desperately wicked.” We can look all we want for the good in people and in every situation. And we may even find gladness from time to time. But, people and this life will many times over disappoint, beat us down and leave us for dead.
The only foundational and unmoving reason to be glad and rejoice is found in Pollyanna’s quick and minimized partial quote of Psalm 97:12…