We’re All Charlie Brown During the Holidays
Who can forget the repeated scenes of Charlie Brown falling flat on his back yet again after trying to kick a football that Lucy has impishly yanked away? No matter how many times he’s failed, good old Charlie always believes that this time will be different. Lucy has changed. And he’ll finally succeed.
It’s funny because we all know that Charlie Brown will miss the ball.
But really, I think, it’s funny because we see ourselves in the character of Charlie Brown.
Each year at the holidays, we are accosted by images of happy children reveling in their newly received gifts.
The most wished for toy on Amazon.com — I’ve managed to live a pretty happy life never having even heard of it until today — comes in a cartoonish package depicting three deliriously happy children smiling the way only cartoon characters can. And the top selling toy on that website similarly depicts a mother smiling with her two amazingly happy pre-teen and teenage children.
“Shop by age to find the perfect toy,” Amazon.com advertises, following up with five pictures of smiling children.
What a concept: “The prefect toy.” Good grief!
It’s as though the only thing standing between children and unlimited bliss is the right gift. Find the right toy, and even teenagers will be gleeful. Siblings will stop fighting and start getting along. You’ll get home from work in time to enjoy the evening with your children, who suddenly will have no homework. Even your house will magically become spotlessly clean. All if you find the right gift.
Children and adults alike buy into the myth, with real dollars.
But it doesn’t work. Like Charlie Brown, we find our goal of a Gift To End All Sadness snatched away at the last minute.
And, worse, we come to a reasonable but wrong conclusion when it doesn’t work: we think that we have simply bought the wrong gift. So we set out — again like Charlie Brown — with the firm but wrong expectation that next time will be different. The next gift will make our lives better, and fix what’s wrong in the lives of those we love.
I have nothing against gifts. I like giving them and I like getting them. I will keep buying things for the important people in my life, and nothing I write here should dissuade you, dear friends, from buying things for me.
So, yes, I like presents.
Even more, I like the messages of the holidays.
And lest I once again fall flat on my back, I try not to confuse one with the other.