Playing the Glad Game

Pollyanna Statue in Littleton, NHThe statue of Pollyanna in Littleton, NH

If you’ve ever read Eleanor Hodgman Porter’s novel, Pollyanna, you are familiar with the Glad Game.  The purpose of playing being to find something good in every situation.

In the novel, Pollyanna’s father, the Reverend Whittier, introduces her to the Glad Game one Christmas when Pollyanna asks for a real china doll from the Missionary Ladies Aid Society, but receives instead a pair of children’s crutches.  Wanting to help his devastated daughter, the Reverend makes up a game: “Let’s see if we can find one good thing about receiving this gift!”  

Pollyanna discovers the one good thing is she doesn’t need crutches.  This experience leads her to embrace the playfulness of finding good all through her life.  And in the process of living the Glad Game, she transforms many other lives.

The Glad Game in 2020

As 2020 comes to a close, anyone can find the bad things evident in our world.  But what if, like Pollyanna, we chose to find one good thing in whatever negative situation we face?

Many people have noted how the events of this year have divided us.  Differing political views and the need for physical distancing have driven a wedge in whatever unity existed before.  But when you look for one good thing, I believe this opinion can be debunked.

Humans, being the social creatures that we are, use the tools at hand to stay connected.  Historically, this would be through letters, and more recently through telephone calls.  Today, we are blessed to have social media and electronic devices that allow for video conferencing to keep us virtually close to one another.  

Personally, my one good thing is that I will always have videos of my loved ones – including a new generation – that I can watch over and over to see them as they are right now.  Having these memories captured fills my heart with joy!

Playfulness and Positivity

“Playfulness, dear friends, is what manifests love.  Love is not manifested through serious survivability, seriousness, stability.  Love, the essence of love, manifests itself through playfulness.”  
~ Réné Gaudette

Etiquette hones our knowing how to stay away from hurtful behavior and how to stay alert to courteous and compassionate responses to others.  Being in relationships requires cultivating positive attitudes.  And there’s nothing more positive than being playful.

Implementing the Glad Game can turn a situation around and help you see others from a different point of view:

  • While many of us won’t be sharing the same physical space with our loved ones this holiday season, there is ample opportunity to capture memories we can share socially.
  • A reaction or outburst from your partner that could begin an argument becomes a reminder of how much you respect their passion.
  • A business deal gone bad helps you understand that trusting your intuition and staying in integrity can help you create positive outcomes in the future.

There are countless examples of how you can put the Glad Game to work for you.  But the bottom line is that playing the game helps you keep life in perspective.  This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take life seriously.  It simply means that when you look for something good, you’ll find it – even in the most serious situations.

Eleanor Hodgman Porter acknowledges this in an interview when she explained, “Pollyanna did not pretend that everything was good.  Instead, she represented a cheery, courageous acceptance of the facts.  She understood that unpleasant things are always with us, but she believed in mitigating them by looking for whatever good there is in what is."

Whenever we find ourselves holding attitudes of entitlement, selfishness, rudeness, or harboring bitterness, or self-recrimination, we become caught up in making unkind choices and this negativity isn’t any fun at all.    

When we choose to look for the good in the bad, we find and create compassion for others and ourselves.  Treated like a game, this playfulness can bring a sense of security as we learn ways to communicate kindly and learn not to take ourselves so seriously.

This is the essence of happy – found and named as we aim to be in right relationship with others, ourselves, and with our surroundings and situations.  It’s never too late to develop the playful attitude of the Glad Game, a great companion of the positive.



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