Father Ed Commentary: You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Ever since the 1960s, for 30 minutes one evening before Halloween, Charlie Brown was trapesing across our television screens looking for the Great Pumpkin.

Not only did the annual event almost become a quasi-religious experience, but also in many households, you could watch the special with the sound off because most viewers knew all the lines and dialogue we enjoyed. Charlie Brown may have been looking for the Great Pumpkin year after year, but the offshoots from the popular character and his friends were to be found everywhere.

Think about it: There are Charlie Brown pajamas, towels, watches, mugs, pencils, clocks, lunch buckets, key chains, Christmas ornaments, blankets, gloves, jackets, pillow covers, beach balls, caps, notepads, story books, tee-shirts, photo albums, eating utensils, lampshades, sweaters, socks, balloons, lapel patches, decals, every occasion cards, pens and, yes, even postage stamps.

At this point, I will let you in on a little secret. It’s probably a secret you also have. I have friends, Carla and Bob, who probably have all of the items I mentioned or have purchased them to give to someone else. And their list of items is probably three or four times as long as the one above. I will bet that you have already thought of a few people (and smiled as you thought of their names) and said to yourself, “Yep, they have all that was mentioned and more.”

With all of the above as a backdrop, the sighs and “oh no’s” when we heard that this year’s edition of our little friends, including Snoopy, would not be on network TV, were just another sad note during this very unsettling year.

Make no mistake, on the life scale, our personal and communal dealings with the pandemic need to be of utmost concern and need to take the bulk of our energy. However, we also know that during this difficult time, some unbelievable, creative adaptations to our life experiences have buoyed us up and enabled us to look down the road to an eventual return to some normalcy.

We need to keep smiling and laughing. We need to keep upbeat and stay in touch. The chuckles from the Charlie Brown TV specials (and theater movies) are just what the doctor has ordered for us during our battle with the virus.

There was a huge outcry as Snoopy and friends made the move from free TV to pay TV. A tsunami of complaints and comments engulfed those in charge of this decision. In the end, PBS struck a deal to bring our Peanut characters back to network TV – and last night PBS broadcast the Christmas show. A quick research of this outcry shows the multiple layers of people who came together to bring about a suitable outcome for the millions of fans who count on these shows as part of their holiday observance.

In a way, I think, it shows what can happen when we put our collective minds, knowledge and energy together. In the past several months, many world leaders on many levels have encouraged and implored us to use our collective minds, knowledge and energy to combat and eventually conquer the coronavirus. How many ways have we seen and heard the phrase “We will get through this together”?

If I may, our little friend Charlie Brown can be one of the many cheerleaders for our pandemic response. In every TV or movie episode of Charles Schulz’s beloved Charlie, we experience a character who just won’t give up. Yes, there are scenes in every episode that show a dejected and sometimes depressed little boy, but with the wisdom and support of his friends and dog, Charley moves on and just doesn’t give up. In many ways, we have watched and listened to a band of friends who have become very dear to our hearts. Often, it seems, their story is our story.

We are currently navigating through many different kinds of holidays and observances. In each instance, these events beckon for us to get together while many who carefully lead us are saying “not this time.” As we struggle with social distancing and the other practices that will eventually mitigate the virus, may the spirit of Charlie Brown bring us not only a smile and a chuckle but also a huge dose of determination.

You’re a good man, Charlie Brown. Thank you for showing us what determination can accomplish. Thanks for showing us how important community is on a small and large scale. Thanks for your image on pajamas and pillowcases and mugs and notebooks and decals and all the other things you adorn. Thanks, little friend, for making a big impact on so many of us.

The author, Edward P. Noga, is the retired pastor of St. Patrick Church in Youngstown.

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