Saturday, February 9, 2013

Why I Love Charlie Brown

“Lunchtime is among the worst times of the day,” Charlie Brown decides, eating alone and commenting on the paint job of his bench. This is after he thinks through the rest of his day and finds several other times that are equally terrible.

That’s the way it goes with poor Charlie Brown. You know that he’s never going to kick the football and his kite will always crash and his baseball team will always lose.

Oddly enough, that’s why we love him. Because he’s such a blockhead, such a loser.

There are times—actually, a good many times—when I am a blockhead and a loser, when I feel like I’m eating a lonely peanut butter sandwich and feeling around in my pocket for a nickel to get some life advice from the local sidewalk psychiatrist who will probably show me all of my faults and tell me to get over it.

We all seem to love Charlie Brown, probably because we all have Charlie Brown moments.

Sure, audiences will cheer for the likeable and talented hero who takes initiative to save the day in a dramatic fashion. But there’s also something instantly likeable about a socially awkward, gullible nobody who happens to have enough redeeming qualities to make up for the fact that the highlight of his day is feeding his dog.

It’s much harder to make a more passive, ordinary character work in a story, and there’s obviously a difference between a novel and a comic strip, but the lesson I learned from Charlie Brown is that we admire good-hearted people, regardless of what they can contribute. We admire them for who they are, not for what they can do.

Sometimes, we forget to do that in the real world. We look down on the losers and the people we see as being less talented than we are. We measure others by what they do, and specifically what they can do for us.

We appreciate Linus for his intelligence and want him around whenever we have a theological discussion. We praise Lucy for her feminist sass and the ability to speak her mind and take charge of a situation. We applaud Schroeder because he has great music talent and a passion for his work. We love Snoopy because he’s just so darn cute.

But, in real life, sometimes we laugh at Charlie Brown. Or ignore him. Or just look at him in disgust, like we can’t believe he’s just blown it again. Especially when Charlie Brown is…us.

Often, I’m pretty good about extending grace to others, assuming there’s a reason a group member forgot to show up to a planning meeting or deciding that my waitress was just having a really stressful day. But I’m very hard on myself, thinking about everything I could do better until it makes me want to sigh, “Good grief!” Or wear a yellow shirt with a black ziz-zag.

When I do that, I’m forgetting something very important that I was reminded of today from Charlie Brown: My worth is not in what I do. Neither is yours.

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