A Round of Applause for the Joy-Givers: Pollyanna and Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump (Paramount Pictures)

HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! We always need more smiles, music and laughter. This fun series salutes those seriously unsolemn people, places and things that bring joy to the world. Starting during the pandemic, an oft joy-challenged time, readers are introduced to present-day joy-givers and reminded of cherished joy-givers of the past. Each salute will have online links to add more opportunities for happiness in the comfort of your socially-distanced home. Many installments of the series will include a salutary food or drink recipe to add another element of pleasure.

The “SHIELD THE JOYOUS” shields, which will be given to those honored or to their family, are inspired from a passage in “The Book of Common Prayer” (1662). Prayers are lifted to “tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying…and shield the joyous.” Joy-givers are precious. Let us preserve them, protect them, treasure them, smile with them, laugh with them, tap our toes with them and give them A ROUND OF APPLAUSE.


“I think I can. I think I can.” We all know that lesson of optimism and hard work from the very American folktale, THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD. How about this quote from another, very American fictional character, Katniss Everdeen, in THE HUNGER GAMES, “At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”

Sure, Mother England had JANE EYRE, MATILDA and that little Dickens, Tiny Tim, but America is an entire land of “Can-Do” from sea to super-shining, brilliantly shining, amazingly, dazzlingly shining sea…WE CAN DO THIS!

Get your pen or highlighter out and clip this article to remind you of a bumper crop of spirit-rousing, American fictional characters. When you need some motivation and positivity about the future, these folks were dreamed up to provide us some “CAN-DO.”

CROWD-SOURCING was the technique I used with safely, socially-distanced “friends” on Facebook to create this fun, joy-giving roster of “CAN-DO” characters.  The question I posted was “POLLYANNA & FORREST GUMP, what other American, fictional characters encourage us to THINK UP and be hopeful and joyful even in trying times? Here’s the many suggestions and the friends who reminded me of their favorites:

–SANTA CLAUSE—Yes, Virginia there is possibly a real one, but real or imaginary, Santa always offers a happy “HO, HO, HO” and wishes “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.” (Abigail Blaylock)

–ATTICUS FINCH—This calm, calming, thoughtful, Alabama lawyer was the most-popularly suggested for this article; if you haven’t read and watched TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD in a while, now would be a good time (Deborah Peterson)

–THE CAT IN THE HAT—The tall, cool cat in his tall, cool hat, created by Dr. Seuss, shows up one rainy day to entertain some home alone kids and totally wrecks the house with his pals Thing One and Thing Two; I won’t ruin the ending for you but it is a happy one (Susan Degges)

–BUSTER KILRAIN in “The Killer Angels” and this quote, “The only thing that matters is justice, which is why I’m here.” (Lisa Tankersley)

–RUDY, the titular hero of the movie- the next time you or someone in your quarantined home gets that sinking feeling, pop a bowl of microwave popcorn and Netflix “Rudy” for immediate uplift (Karen Marie Anderson Kulas)

–DOROTHY GALE OF KANSAS—Most Americans love this plucky character and her pals but honestly she is not a personal fave fictional heroine for me (I don’t even like her like her gaudy, red shoes) but this reminds us that what it takes to lift someone’s spirit may be very different person-to-person; the first time I saw “The Wizard of Oz” movie, it freaked me out and I had to sleep with parents; yes, I know what you’re thinking, he was probably home from college; the movie has many, many fans who find it uplifting, so consider it; I’m hopeful that a house might fall out of the sky and land on television lawyer, Nancy Grace–that’s for another article (Letitia Landers-King)

–PEE WEE HERMAN—adult child-ish, chaotic crazyiness

–AUNTIE MAME DENNIS— “Open a new window. Open a new door.” And, “We need a little Christmas, NOW!” (Grace Reid)

–PERRY MASON—America’s all-time favorite, television, do-gooder lawyer (Lisa Tankersley)

–MAMA ROSE—This bulldozing, stage mother in the musical “GYPSY,” based on the mother of famous stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, will grab you by the throat and make you believe that “Everything’s Comin’ up Roses”

–HORATIO ALGER—who was actually the author of more than 100 novels of “rags to riches” inspiration; the characters had names like “Jed the Poorhouse Boy” and “Ragged Dick,” this 19th century, American writer has the distinction of selling more books, somewhere between 2 and 4 million, than any other American author (Verna Gates)

–UNDERDOG—Just hearing the cartoon theme song will make you happy, YouTube pronto! (Deborah Peterson)

–SHERRIF ANDY TAYLOR, BARNEY FIFE, OPIE, sometimes AUNT BEE, OTIS CAMPBELL, the DARLINGS—just about the entire town of Mayberry were joy-givers (Lisa Tankersley)

–CHRISSY SNOW—played by Suzanne Somers in “Three’s Company”—every blonde joke come true and a heart as big as her bouncy chest (Nicole Brown Hetrick)

–ROY ROGERS and DALE EVANS—They were a soul-warming blend of real and fiction and TRIGGER was possibly “America’s Favorite Television Horse” at least until “MR. ED” (Xonnie Johnson-Hardiman)

–THE RIFLEMAN—an ambidextrous, rifle twirler and widower raising a son and killing bad guys in the American West, played by real-life professional baseball/basketball/football star, Chuck Connors of Brooklyn, NY (Molly Chew)

–BETTY BOOP—the cartoon flapper and collectibles favorite (Jan Farley)

–DOLLY LEVI—the meddlesome matchmaker of “HELLO DOLLY,” she’ll rouse you to join her on “Nobody’s Gonna Rain on My Parade!” (Mary Hayden Hovater)

–MAIDA WESTABROOK—This is an entire series of “CAN-DO” stories (Virginia Walker)

–NANCY DREW—the most-famous girl detective ever (Virginia Walker)

–JO MARCH in LITTLE WOMEN—If you haven’t already seen the beautifully lush recent film by gifted director, Greta Gerwig, plan for some popcorn and Netflix. (Virginia Walker)

–BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID—great film and the stars have added to American greatness, too; Robert Redford created The Sundance Film Festival and Paul Newman used his celebrity to create “Newman’s Own” foods which gives ALL PROFITS to a variety of charities. (Joyce Sharp)

–ROSE NYLAND in “The Golden Girls”—blissful with a great lust for life (Marla Hope Kenney)

–INDIANA JONES—old-time, edge-of-your-seat film adventure that always gives you a happy ending (Patrick Oliver Branch)

–TOM SAWYER—among many other cheerful moments, he attends his own funeral, and people are sad he’s gone, few experiences could be better than that (John Mertz)

–HARVEY WALLBANGER—ask your favorite bartender

–SUPERGIRL and WONDER WOMAN—American heroines who can kick some hiney and look smashing doing it (JANE SISSON SEIGEL)

–DASH RIPROCK—the slickly suave movie actor who popped up periodically on “The Beverly Hillbillies” to try and snare gorgeous, free bird, Elly May (Kerry Sewell)

–ROSIE THE RIVETER—WWII, roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-to-work character who brought legions of American women into out-of-the-home jobs and changed the career opportunities for women ongoing (Deanna Leavitt)

–WYLIE COYOTE—dastardly cartoon character with devilishly delightful determination time-after-time, year-after-year “Beep. Beep.” (Britt Tolbert)

–JEFFREY LEBOWSKI—always in pajamas and a bathrobe, “The Dude” is a laid-back hero for our WFH times (John Allison)

–H.I. “Hi” McDONOUGH—This “Raising Arizona” character is an awesome “go-to” when you need some laughs, like every day of the pandemic. (John Allison)

–SCARLETT O’HARA—Turnip-waving “God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry, AGAIN!” survivor who visits prisoners in a green velvet dress she saw in the window and just had to have (Mike Davitt)

–MIZ MELLY WILKES—Not as feisty as Miz Scarlett but absolutely more inspiring in many ways (Susan Degges)

–LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE— “The sun’ll come out, tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar there’ll be sun…Tomorrow, TOMORROW, there’s always tomorrow, it’s only a daaaaaay awaaaaay!” (Tracy Garner Deer)

–PATCH ADAMS— Based on a real-life pediatrician but with lots of clown-nose fun and invention by Robin Williams; guaranteed to make you and your family feel better. (Brandon Cogle)

–“FRIED GREEN TOMATOES” WOMEN—Created by author/comedienne, Fannie Flagg, this book and movie serve made-from-scratch “CAN-DO” every day of the week.

My friends suggested lots of larger-than-life real or partly real “CAN-DO” role models, too: Dolly Parton, Iris Apfel, Lou Wooster, Jesus of Nazareth, Fred Rogers, Helen Keller, NASA (everyone involved), FDR & Eleanor, General George Patton, Johnny Appleseed and Willie Nelsonweed, Amelia Earhart, Barack Obama, Ronal Reagan, Kris Kristofferson, Tecumseh, Laura Bush, Ann Richards, Betsy and Diana Ross, Luther Burbank, George Washington Carver, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Carter and others.

Please join me in thanking my friends for all their “CAN-DO” suggestions and let’s all join in giving these inspiring joy-givers and their creators A ROUND OF APPLAUSE.

For most installments of this series, I offer a related recipe, but this week calls for bowl after bowl of popcorn and in some cases, like enjoying Jo March and LITTLE WOMEN, a nice cuppa tea. Now, get your “CAN-DO” on, AMERICA!


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Ben South