Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'm no Pollyanna

Confession—I am so NOT a Pollyanna. Shocked? Not if you know me.

Pollyanna is the title character from a book written by Eleanor H. Porter in 1913. The girl with the sunny disposition went through life playing “The Glad Game”. She looked for the positive in every single situation.

The Glad Game was created by her dad one Christmas when her poor family received gifts from the mission. The little girl was hoping for a doll, but found only a pair of crutches inside the gift box. Her daddy taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because she “didn’t need ‘em!”

The word Pollyanna is now a part of our English vernacular. We use it to describe a person who sees the good in everything. The word is sometimes used as a derogatory slam to describe someone who is so sickeningly positive that they seem completely out of touch with reality.

I consider myself a realist. Look, I would rather see the bad and deal with it, than wear blinders that keep me from seeing the whole picture. I believe in facing challenges and negativity head-on. Subtle flaws and imperfections add unique depth to works of art.

Some time ago I met a young man who had just moved to Fresno from Phoenix, Arizona. He didn’t know much about our fair city, but he’d been offered a teaching job at Fresno City College, so he came. What little he did know about us was negative.

I Googled the phrase “Fresno voted worst place” and came up with 91,400 hits. I then tried the phrase, “Fresno voted best place” and the search engine gave me just 13,700 findings.

Well, no wonder the teacher had heard far more bad press about Fresno—there’s so much more bad than good out there!

The new resident was expecting to drive up Highway 99 and see a hot barren stretch of desert nothingness. Instead, kind people and trees—lots and lots of trees, greeted him.

I read a couple of the Fres-“NO” articles found by Google and one writer said Fresno needed more trees. The college instructor, however, said he was amazed and enchanted by our abundance of trees. In fact, he offered, the local chamber of commerce ought to use our ample wooded goodness as a selling point in the come-to-Fresno brochures.

There is much wrong with our city—drugs, homelessness, low-scoring students, joblessness, and poverty. It used to be that the Appalachian Mountains were home to our country’s poorest people. Fresno County now boasts that dubious distinction.

But there is so much to celebrate about our Central California home. If you live in the Fresno/Clovis area, you are less than an hour away from some of the most beautiful and scenic mountains in the world. The Sierra/Nevada mountain range is the gorgeous home to many of the oldest and tallest trees in the world—the mighty Sequoias. We’re less than three hours from the fabulous Pacific Ocean. We easily take day trips to Yosemite, San Francisco, or Hollywood.

We are home to a myriad of artists and their incredible work. We boast fine theatre, exquisite dining, fabulous music, quirky art communities, and the best-in-the-world agriculture. Nothing beats our homegrown peaches, nectarines, and watermelon on a warm summer day. If you love rodeo—we’ve got it. You like water parks? We’ve got two! You’ve never seen an underground garden? Plan a visit to the world-famous Forestier Gardens.

I’m no Pollyanna. I see all that’s wrong with this city—just like I see all that’s not right in my life and in my family. It’s the good AND the bad that creates the depth of beauty that is my world. I won’t ignore the negative; rather I will do that which is in my power to make it better.

I’ve walked in the desert, and I found respite under the trees. I feel the hurt, and I appreciate the joy. I grieve for the sick and addicted, and I rejoice with the free. I see the good, the bad, the ugly, the fabulous, the weak, and the strong.

Okay, so I’m not a Pollyanna. But if no one sees that which is wrong, who will rise up to say “I can help”?

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