Smiling is the new black!

When my kids were little, I took them to Broadway to see “Annie”. My daughters, particularly Francesca, loved it. Francesca was so in awe of Annie that she wanted to be just like her. She had the sailor dress, wanted a dog like Sandy and she and Veronica would make Frank Sr and me hold a flashlight on them as their spotlight as they performed the songs, “Tomorrow” and “You’re Never Fully Dressed without a Smile” from the show together.

This was one of my favorite fazes in my daughters’ lives. Also, it was one of the easiest. Because Francesca wanted to be like Annie, and Veronica wanted to be like Francesca, I could get them to do anything by saying Annie would do it. “Annie would eat her vegetables.” “Annie would listen to Daddy Warbucks, so you should listen to your Daddy.” “Annie would stand up to the mean kids in school.” “Annie would share her toys.” “Annie would learn Italian.” Ok, the last one, I had a little trouble selling.

Looking back, I am grateful for that show. Annie was a great role model for my children, and someone from whom even adults could learn something. Annie was an eternal optimist and grateful for what little she had. She was an orphan who always believed her parents were coming for her despite the years that had past. She was grateful for her friendships in the orphanage and loved all the girls there, even the whiny one. She stood up for the weakest girls and showed courage in the face of oppression and cruelty. She inspired the people around her with her sunny nature and refusal to accept defeat. She charmed the coldest of hearts and taught Daddy Warbucks who seemingly had everything, that he was missing the most important thing in his life, love. She opened his heart so wide, he found room in it to love all of Annie’s orphan friends. She taught the millionaire how to be truly generous.

Annie’s generosity, sunny optimism and gratitude during the worst time in American history, the Depression, is something we should all try to emulate. Her songs, “Tomorrow” preached that each day brings a chance for things to change for the better. “The sun will come out, tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun…” It’s not about the weather, but about being grateful for life because everyday that you’re alive is a day that could bring you change. Things will get better, just believe it. The other song, “Hey hobo man, hey dapper dan, you both got your style, but brother you’re never fully dressed without a smile…” preaches that no matter how little or how much you have, you should be grateful and happy. A smile is the best accessory.

I think about these things because so many people I know are going through tough economic times these days. Even my daughters have felt the pain. I remind them that Annie would be optimistic, grateful, strong and not give up the fight. They laugh at me for being such an Annie fan all these years later, but they understand what I’m trying to say.

I don’t understand people whose lives are basically good who gripe about little petty minutia all the time, the ones who thrive on problems, think that somehow the world owes them something and who create drama over minutia instead of letting the little things slide. These people look for other people to make them happy and find unhappiness in the smallest actions of other people, always judging everyone else’s slights to them and never having any perspective other than their own. They forget that we decide to be happy, we make our own happiness, and no matter how hard the situation, the sun will come out tomorrow. It doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to get frustrated, angry or have a good cry if things are truly difficult. But you do have to get up, move forward and focus on being grateful for what you do have and what is going well. If you have the most important things in life, if you are alive, if you’re healthy, have a roof over your head, food on your table and someone who loves you, you are so very rich. I pity people who don’t understand that.

Annie barely had those things, and yet, she believed that someday, things would get better. She managed to find joy in the smallest things. Some people look around and only see what is wrong with their lives, not what’s right. Maybe they never saw “Annie”. If it ever comes back to Broadway, they should. And if they do, I hope they want to be just like her.

I know I do.

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