Eastern Wake: Opinion

Column: Charlie Brown’s enduring lesson

By Johnny Whitfield

Johnny Whitfield
Johnny Whitfield ehyman@newsobserver.com

Television isn’t a big part of our family’s life. Entire nights often go by without so much as turning the television set on. Generally, I don’t have the patience to sit in front of the television for an hour at the time to watch anything... unless it’s a ball game.

But I noticed a story in The News & Observer recently that mentioned the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I read the story and noted that the program was due to air that night. I made a mental note and that night, I sat dutifully in front of the television at 8 p.m. ready to see Charlie and listen to Linus recite the Christmas story.

This was an exciting opportunity because, honestly, I hadn’t seen the program in a few years and I missed it.

Imagine my disappointment when the show that came on at 8 was an hour-long program about the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It was a television show about a television show. Ugghhh.

I clicked on the schedule button and noticed that the show I really wanted to see was due to air an hour later at 9. I left the living room to do other things for an hour and when I returned, sure enough, there was the cast of the Charlie Brown show.

For an hour, I turned 8 again and I watched as Charlie Brown tried to pick out a good Christmas tree only to be ridiculed by the other children for picking a sad excuse for a tree. I watched as Linus recited that wonderful story from the Book of Luke, which, frankly, gives me chills every time I hear it.

And I listened as Shroeder banged out one of the greatest songs of all time on his cartoon piano – appropriately titled Linus and Lucy because Lucy is casually resting against the piano while Shroeder plays.

I’m not sure why a single television program has such staying power, but I think it has something to do with the message it contains: there’s hope for every average Joe out there, including you and me.

Poor ol’ Charlie Brown wasn’t feeling the Christmas spirit in that program. His friends tried to pick him up, which is what friends should do. But like most of us, his friends were fallible. They offered to help him, but found themselves knocking him back down again.

In the end, though, they righted their ship and Charlie Brown found the true meaning of Christmas, which has nothing to do with Christmas trees, the Christmas musical or buying gifts for the little red-headed girl.

Charlie Brown’s friends discovered the power of helping the least of their friends when they fixed his Christmas tree and turned it into a beautiful shining symbol of Christmas.

Linus reminded Charlie of the gift of the saviour. Christian beliefs put forth the idea that all our hope should lie with that saviour. And, Charlie Brown figured out that Christmas is a season of hope. It’s not a season of giving and getting – though plenty of that will happen.

And the creators of the Charlie Brown Christmas special figured out how to relay that message in a way that appeals not only to 8-year-olds but to 49-year-olds as well.

That, dear reader, is television worth watching. And it’s a lesson we can all take to heart.