“When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.”
Eleanor H. Porter (Author of Pollyanna, 1913)
When I was younger, 1970’s to be exact, I loved getting the newspaper into my hands with a cup of coffee. I sat on the end of a long sofa in the fancy sitting room area and enjoyed turning the pages to the life section. Sipping the delicious black roasted drink that was ‘’good to the last drop,” I would read the quote of the day, Ann Landers column, and human-interest stories. Starting each day in the optimism of a positive read from scripture and a quote of hope or wisdom to ponder from the newspaper was a way of youthful intentionality to combine faith and world matters from another’s story into some harmonious hope. I was a realistic pragmatic type who believed in solving problems in a preventive and realistic effort for the most positive outcome. I looked for the good in each situation or person. When I read Ann Landers column I would imagine what I would say to encourage or challenge the problem presented in the column. Then I would read Ann’s remarks for comparison and contrast to the insights offered. There was no sense of judgmentalism in my analysis. Much of the overview I held about a dilemma offered in a story-line or Ann Landers column fell into a category of helping good people find a better way through. The old soul within me felt a constant need to learn about human behavior and give grace in the effort of seeking and learning the art of offering wise advice. What my family saw in me was this Pollyanna need to help others with a sunnier disposition than they valued. But, I persevered and started each day with such pondering’s and search for purpose in the realistic dilemmas and events reported in a morning paper.
This first paragraph offers me much in the reflection of being true to one’s self. It also reminds me that I seemed to be an old soul type. I was drinking black coffee by the time I was nine years old. Not that coffee drinkers are old souls necessarily, but I don’t know many kids today who would begin their day with coffee at age nine. In the 1970’s I was a teenager and young adult. To reminisce about the routine of this first paragraph was to begin my day first at five in the morning for a three-mile run. Take a shower, dress for school, get my morning coffee and reading scripture and the newspaper. That was the rhythm I used to center my day.
The author, Eleanor Porter, who wrote Pollyanna did not see her main character Pollyanna as a naïve child but rather as the type of person who directed her optimism to some of the qualities of an old soul who needed to address and absorbed the negative, critical, or difficult emotions of the adults that inhabited her life with a dose of pragmatic reality. I feel Pollyanna was an old soul. Old soul types tend to gravitate to those older in years, tend to be less materialistic, like to be in relationships that have depth, avoid emotional nonsense of others who feed on crisis and need for attention. Old soul types live harmoniously within themselves and less satisfied with people and systems that misuse power and are ego driven in manipulating the lives of another. Old souls need to be free to be themselves without judgment, criticism, and limitations put on them. According to the research on old soul types, they are approximately 11% of the population. They are not the mover and shaker types that enjoy the latest and greatest trends or technology. They are an anomaly to most who encounter them and thus most find them an oddity. This oddity factor is the uncomfortable awareness that old souls ‘see’ them. Some people are uncomfortable with being ‘seen’ or ‘known’. Pollyanna looked past the curmudgeon, prickles of distant others, cliques and clans that exclude. She simply saw past the masks and pushed to belong and help them to belong.
The beauty of these old soul types offer wisdom and are nonjudgmental of others. They simply want to help others accept and see themselves as they impact not only those they encounter, but most of all themselves. It saddens old soul types to be misunderstood in this realm. Most of the time they simply want to enjoy and be enjoyed in the company of another without the pressure of performing or entertaining another. Simply be.
Today, I remain optimistic within the value of learning from life experiences that are both negative or positive. There is a balance to be appreciated for what both offer. The aging Pollyanna that I am, rests in the hope that an old soul with a youthful gratitude will always appreciate what life must teach us all.
Dr. Martin E. Seligman studied optimistic people (Pollyanna types) and finds they take adversity as temporary outcomes, they persevered in difficult times, and are more proactive and persistent or tenacious in times of trouble. They are the sort that will never give up hope.
Today, I begin each day with a cup of coffee, a prayer journal, scripture and kindle for reading. It is over forty years since those days of beginning each day as a teen with such a routine. The opinions and sentiments of many voices have studied Pollyanna, pragmatism and old soul types. This voice simply chooses to appreciate the continuity of beginning each day with the structure and disposition that is timeless from scripture. Face each day with steady surety, acceptance of things one cannot change, live true to God, self, and care toward others rests in 2Tim. 1: 7. “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and self-control.”
The essence of this is verse challenges me to be real about the authenticity of real love versus manipulated and withholding love, the integrity of utilizing power that is genuine in respectful mutual rapport versus misuse of power and the desire to control others, and finally in self-control to look to the personal authority of productivity and owning one’s own character cards versus authoritarian rule of being right and another person, group or ideology is all wrong.
When Pollyanna, loses the loss of her legs from an accident, the grief overwhelms her at first. The emotional intelligence of resilience rises in her when the people she has striven to boost with hardy hope and optimism give her the realty check that she must continue to follow her own mantra of hope. The story ends with her healing. Healing that came from looking for the good in every person, situation, and personal mirror. I pray we all can begin each day with the reality check that God loves us, empowers us, and implores us to produce positive lives worth living. Like Pollyanna, I am tenacious enough to begin each day in such a hope.