Today is the first day of the new liturgical year. Sister Hae-in Lee in her article in the Seoul Bulletin mentions how often it is noted that priests and sisters are difficult to approach. Their appearance is stern and stiff, which does not encourage people to come close. She has often been told to have a smiling face.
She introduces us to one of her favorite books the novel Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. The word pollyanna has taken on the meaning from the novel, of a person with irrepressible optimism, and a tendency to find good in everything.
Pollyanna while a child learned from her father, a minister, to be optimistic. The beginning for this way of looking at life began one Christmas when she was hoping to pick out a doll from a barrel full of presents, but instead of a doll out came crutches. Seeing the crutches she began to cry and her father said: " You little fool why are you crying? Shouldn't you be happy that you don't need those crutches?"
From this incident she made up the 'Glad Game', a game which consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. Pollyanna with this view of life was able to transform the cold and uninviting town in which she lived into a pleasant and joyful place.
Sister Lee mentions in her own life she decided to start playing the 'Glad Game'. Especially in situations that were the most depressing. When she does not see a way to resolve her problem, becomes dejected, feels lost as in a swamp, and her relations with others become tangled, with prayer and playing the 'Glad Game' she tries to avoid being in a funk.
The 'Glad Game' was helpful when she was in the hospital. When the nurses came to her bedside during the day to take her temperature, and blood pressure, instead of showing displeasure she tried to smile. When she had to undergo radiation and chemotherapy, how fortunate, she thought, to have the opportunity to receive this form of treatment, and when her guests said something that seemed to her out of place, she smiled, and tried to understand it favorably. She became adept in playing the 'Glad Game'.
Since we are beginning the season of Advent and a new liturgical year she wants her readers to play the 'Glad Game'. Foolish as it sounds, she believes it is the way that love wins out.
Christianity is filled with all kinds of paradoxes. What seems strange to our way of thinking and counter-intuitive, often looks different in retrospect. Would it not be an interesting experiment to see how many of our actions during Advent can be truly counter intuitive, taken from the words of Jesus? We can start with the sermon on the mount. One of our most important mysteries is the paschal mystery: the most counter intuitive of all our acts-- dying to ourselves in order to live. There are many ways of doing this daily, and a good preparation for Christmas.