I’m a child of the ‘60’s; born in 1960 and raised during this tumultuous time. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to watch the Charlie Brown specials. I vividly remember waiting for Charlie Brown and his Peanuts friends to be on TV for holiday specials. In the ‘60’s you only got 1 shot to see these specials. There was no cable TV to show them over and over ad nauseum.
Charlie Brown became one of my role models and I learned a lot of lessons from him. I’ve applied these lessons throughout my life and believe that life today is richer because of what I’ve learned from Charlie.
Charlie Brown, or Chuck as Peppermint Patty and I call him, is a sincere, misunderstood kid. It always seemed that he was sincerely trying to do the right thing, but being Charlie Brown isn’t easy so he sometimes struggled to get his messages across. There are 4 distinct lessons I learned from Chuck; let me share them with you.
First, Chuck knows who he is and doesn’t look to others to get his identity. Chuck is a trusting guy. Do you remember the times when Lucy was holding the football for him so he could kick it. It never failed, she would pull the ball out from in front of him and he’d end up on his behind. But he kept trying and trusting Lucy. We sat in front of the TV and said, “no, Charlie, don’t do it she’ll just pull it out from in front of you’; but Charlie knew he was a trusting soul; he knew that Lucy was his good friend; and he didn’t look to me to make his decision about kicking the football. He just did it. And without fail, Lucy pulled the football away and Charlie ended up on his backside.
He was always proud when Lucy said, “Of all the Charlie Brown’s in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest” because he knew that it was good to know himself and to be better at being himself than anyone else.
Chuck is a seeker. When he was doing his best to direct the unruly Peanuts gang in their Christmas Pageant, he stopped practice to bellow out, “doesn’t anybody know the true meaning of Christmas?” Charlie wanted to know. He was looking for meaning in the overly-commercialized society of his day. He didn’t believe fulfillment could be found in commercialism, gaudy decorations, or fancy Christmas gifts. He sought meaning in his life.
He seemed so content to hear Linus deliver the true Christmas Story from the book of Luke. I memorized this version of the Christmas Story from watching this special year after year after year and I learned to seek truth from Charlie Brown.
Chuck taught me that regardless of how sincere I am, my sincerity doesn’t mean that my beliefs are true. Charlie’s friend Linus sincerely believed in the Great Pumpkin. He knew that the Pumpkin would show up in the patch on Halloween. He believed this so strongly and sincerely that he passed up a whole year’s worth of trick-or-treat candy to hang out in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin. Of course, he talked Charlie into staying in the pumpkin patch with him. But, it really didn’t matter how sincerely Linus believes in the Pumpkin, the pumpkin is not real.
You and I can believe in a lot of things, but if our beliefs are not based on the true truths of our world, then we’re no better off than Chuck and Linus sitting out in the middle of the most sincere pumpkin patch they could find. We need to search our beliefs and know that they are true.
Finally, Chuck knew how to find beauty and potential in simple and ugly things. Do you remember the Christmas tree that he chose in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Remember how tiny it was. Remember how it drooped when just 1 Christmas ornament was on it. Chuck chose this tree because it was the only ‘real’ tree available. All of the others were plastic and fake, but Chuck saw beauty in the real thing. Charlie could see through this ugly outer façade and see the true beauty in the tree and know how great things can come from things that seem to be ugly on the outside.
Chuck’s friends finally saw the tree through Chuck’s eyes and decorated it beautifully. Maybe we should try to see our world through Chuck’s eyes and realize there is great beauty in many of the things that, on the surface, seem pretty ugly to us. Maybe, then, we can make something beautiful out of some of the eyesores of our lives and our world.
Charlie Brown is, indeed, a great teacher. He has taught me many more things than these, but these are some of the most valuable things I learned from him. I learned to be comfortable being myself; I learned to be a seeker, looking for true truths in life; I learned that sincerity is great but only if the things I sincerely believe are truths; and I learned to see beauty and potential in all things. Thanks, Chuck.