It’s May, it’s May, it’s May! And what does that mean? Flowers and thunderstorms and picnics…and another month in the Sugar Block Club of course! If you’re not part of the SBC yet, you can still join! Monthly blocks patterns and yummy recipes emailed to you each month, in conjunction with this empowering Beyond the Block series.
This month’s block is “Joy”…a spinning, dancing star full of color and movement, which goes right along with our personal challenge, to BE Joyful.
As much as I love Pixar and some of the newer family films, I can’t let my kid’s childhood pass them by without the chance to fall in love with some of the older classics that I so enjoyed as a child. So I decided recently to invest in a few gems. One of the movies I was most excited to share with them is the 1960 Disney film Pollyanna, starring Hayley Mills, and based on the book by Eleanor Porter.
In the story, Pollyanna is a joyful young girl who constantly chooses positivity over negativity, gladness over cynicism, joy over sadness, and manages to shift the paradigm of an entire town of people. She’d been inspired by her father to start playing “the glad game”- always looking for the good in things- and allowed the game to truly become a lifestyle. She reads from the locket around her neck, “When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will. –Abraham Lincoln.”
Well, one might say, it’s easy to be so glad when life’s easy. But surely Pollyanna had her share of struggles. She grew up the daughter of very poor missionary’s, and became an orphan when both of her parents died in service. She was all alone in the world, penniless, had just lost everything precious to her, and was sent to live in a town full of strangers who were thoroughly unhappy about everything, all of the time. It could have been easy for her to withdraw, to become bitter, to run away or rebel. But what did she do? She looked for the good, and she found it.
I want to inject a healthy dose of Pollyanna’s infectious gladness into my kids, my community, my country, our world…but I stop and remember- it starts with me. I caught myself saying to my husband just last week, that “I hate Mondays.” Monday’s are a particularly challenging day for me, with getting all 4 kids dressed, fed, packed up and dropped off to multiple schools by myself. It’s an exhausting morning that always seems to result in me huffing around, yelling at my dawdling kids, angry at the horribly inconvenient parking, and bitter toward the seemingly endless stream of parents who feel the need to remind me that I’ve “got my hands full” as I carry both of my 20 lb toddlers in my arms through the parking lot.
But when I paused for just a fraction of a second to think about that statement, “I hate Mondays,” and why I said it, the irony of my blindness was astounding. Wait a second…I HAVE 4 healthy children! I HAVE good local schools available to me! I HAVE a vehicle that runs, and 4 good car seats to keep my children safe. And if we really want to go there, how about I HAVE working legs to walk with my children, I HAVE 2 working arms to carry them with?? Suddenly things get REAL when I realise the ridiculousness of my complaint.
I think the key to joy is gratefulness. When we’re grateful for what we DO have, it’s harder to focus on and complain about the things that we don’t. Pollyanna was glad to mistakenly receive crutches instead of a doll in the missionary barrel because her perspective was one of gratitude- she was grateful that she didn’t need to use the crutches. And I don’t know about you, but this realisation lights a spark in me. Gratitude and joy, or negativity and bitterness? I can be overwhelmed that I have so many quilts to make right now, in such a short amount of time, or, I can choose to be elated that I get to do what I love to do everyday! I can be upset at the laundry that’s taking over the foot of my bed, or I can rejoice that I have clothes for my family to fit every occasion and every season. Dinner’s a hassle? How about, I’m grateful to live in a country with an abundant grocery store on every corner, and I have the money to buy food.
When we open our eyes to the world around us, and the history behind us, it’s not tough to find perspective. Travel the world, or just crack a book, and you’d be surprised at the people you’ll encounter who live, or have lived, with less than we have. Imagine a place without running water, without abundant food, without the freedom to speak, to worship, to choose your children’s school or healthcare provider. I just finished reading a book about life in Nazi Germany in the 1940s, and as I poured over the pages, immersing myself in the horrors of the concentration camps, of the fear and starvation and utter despair….of people dreaming of strawberry jam and a clean bed…it suddenly felt thoroughly disgusting to recall actually having complained that I have to drive 2 miles to get to the nearest Starbucks.
But take heart! This challenge isn’t about guilt. It isn’t about judging or criticizing or feeling bad. It’s about joy. It’s about looking up instead of down. It’s about gratitude instead of complaining. And admittedly, I’m the worst offender of them all. How about today, right now, we make change. Are you with me? It might be tough at first, in a world full of negativity and entitlement, but stick with it and and soon we may just find that the positivity flowing from our mouths and hearts is impacting those around us in a real and noticeable way. In our families, at our work, with our friends…let’s BE Pollyanna.
Want to add to the conversation? Leave a comment, and share share about what this challenge means to you. What helps you ward off negativity in your own life. What brings you joy, and helps you stay joyful throughout your day? I’m so grateful to be journeying through these monthly challenges with you!