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Offering grace all around

“Childhood is the essence of who we become. The things we work on in our childhood stay with us through our lives.” – Finding Fred

Children’s television from my childhood has had a “moment” this Fall. In some ways, one of the best parts has been witnessing the recognition that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street, while both charming, were also phenomenally progressive…perhaps even a bit revolutionary in what they were teaching us..

Let’s start with “Won’t you be my neighbor?“, which was initially released in 2018 but had a resurgence recently. This movie successfully highlighted what can only be described as the radical kindness of Fred Rogers. Then, while I was listening to the It’s Been a Minute weekly wrap just before Thanksgiving, I learned about Carvell Wallace’s amazing podcast series “Finding Fred“. And, not surprisingly, I’m hooked on listening to so many backstories about Fred Rogers and the development of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. There is far more there to unpack than I ever came close to realizing. Oh, and I’m not going to lie that I’m pretty proud to have a friend who created a Mr. Rogers-inspired sermon series that she delivered in November.

And in November, Sesame Street kicked off its 50th Anniversary season. In December, Sesame Street was honored by the Kennedy Center, the first TV show to achieve that distinction. As an adult who was raised on Sesame Street– and Plaza S├ęsamo!- it’s a little mind-boggling to both understand and recognize how much pedagogy and courage went into the programming for both Sesame and Mr. Rogers.

Lest you think I’m simply going to ramble about children’s television programming, I’ll proceed to tie this back to grace, our subject at hand today. Edutopia published a post last month explaining why Sesame Street’s Muppets are revolutionaries, and Rosemarie Truglio’s discussion of Grover just resonated with me since we share him as a favorite.

Let’s think about Grover, just for a moment. He’s a furry purple monster. He’s a bit (okay, a lot) goofy. He tries on all sorts of roles, from waiter to Super Grover. Grover is unfailingly kind and caring. Grover also arguably makes more mistakes than any other Muppet, yet I don’t think of Grover as a sad figure. Dr. Truglio beautifully describes Grover’s capacity to make mistakes from a place of best intentions, as well as his ability to recover and learn from those mistakes.

Think about that for just a moment. We have this sweet, goofy purple monster who forgives himself and continues to try. He is incredibly imperfect. Those around him forgive him and love him anyway when he makes mistakes (confession: for me as both a child and adult fan it made him all the more lovable!). Grover shows up, loves hard, does his best every single day. In my estimation, Grover is a model for extending grace to oneself. And his community? It’s a model for extending grace to those around us since Grover remains a central part of the Sesame Street neighborhood after 50 years- and he’s a master at offering grace to those around him as well, probably because he’s so practiced at offering it to himself.

Many of us work and live in stress-filled settings, and the holidays in particular are a time of year that can be as sorrowful as it is joyful. What if every day we pause to recognize that it’s an opportunity to start one more time, and to use that to practice offering ourselves some grace? Framed that way, it sounds not-so-hard to offer grace all around.