Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection, and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus say the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.” Zechariah 7:8-10
Most of us are familiar with Charlie Brown, the lead character of the long running cartoon and comic strip, “Peanuts”. No matter how old I get, I always watch the Charlie Brown specials at Halloween (who can forget the Great Pumpkin), Thanksgiving (toast and popcorn for Thanksgiving Dinner) and Christmas (thankfully they still read the Nativity story). Charlie Brown has a character we can all relate to. He has good days and bad ones, has times when he is optimistic and pessimistic, and has times when he feels confident and other times when he is nervous.
Linus, he of the ever present blue security blanket, is Charlie Brown’s best friend. Linus’ sister, Lucy, is Charlie Brown’s chief tormenter. She acts like his friend on many occasions and the two talk often. Yet, Lucy acts like a bully towards Charlie Brown, making insensitive remarks about how much he is a failure and calling him names, especially “blockhead”.
The most frustrating thing that Lucy does is “encourage” Charlie Brown to kick a football which she eagerly holds for him. Every time Charlie Brown runs to kick the ball, she pulls it away at the last second and he ends up on his back. This pattern continues often in the comic strips and cartoons. She “encourages” him to kick the ball, promises that this time she will leave the ball in place and not pull it back, he believes that this will finally be the time he gets to kick the ball, he runs with optimism, and is inevitably disappointed when she pulls the ball back yet again. At some point, he knows that she won’t let him kick the ball and yet on some level, each time he still tries, believing somewhere in his heart that this will be the time she helps him succeed.
I’ve often wondered why Charlie Brown doesn’t just kick Lucy, instead of the ball. She is obviously not going to let him kick it and will just continue to taunt and pick on him. Charlie Brown, however, is, if nothing else, very kind. While he might not be the “sharpest tack on the wall,” he makes up for it with kindness. While he makes mistakes like everyone, we never see him be unkind to someone. In fact, he goes out of his way to be kind to Linus, Schroeder, Franklin and even embraces the perpetual mess that is Pig-Pen. Charlie Brown is not always an optimist but he is a pretty good encourager.
One of the reasons why Charlie Brown has lasted so long and is appealing to people of all ages is because we see ourselves in the characters. We all have our quirks, like Linus. We all have our obsessions, like Schroeder and his piano. We all have days where we look messy like Pig-Pen.
Most of us have Lucys in our lives, people who torment us and who bully us. Most people have had a bad boss or a bad teacher or a bad (former or current) friend. We all have people we want to believe in who consistently let us down. We all have had optimism in things we should just give up on, like kicking the football that “Lucy” is just never going to hold for us.
Sadly, each of us has Lucy tendencies, at least at some points. I hope no one thinks of me as a bad boss, or a bad priest or a bad friend, but I’m sure I have those titles with some people and honestly, with a few it’s probably deserved. We’ve all taken a turn pulling the ball back on someone, or misleading someone, or pretending to encourage while secretly rooting for someone to fail.
Charlie Brown, as we discussed, was kind, if nothing else. If he ever had the urge to hurt Lucy or fight back, he never did. And while we may look at Charlie Brown as the perpetual victim, he is also the hero of the story. Why? Because he consistently tries to see the good in people. You never hear him use bad language. You never see him hit anyone. Charlie Brown may be a “blockhead” when it comes to certain things. However, we don’t hear the Bible extol intelligence as a virtue, nor riches, nor popularity. Kindness, mercy, truth and goodness, these are things that please God, and also please others. These are the pillars on which genuine friendships are built. These are the virtues that make life truly meaningful. Because what good is it to have all the riches in the world if everyone thinks you are Lucy, a bully? We definitely need more Charlie Browns in the world.
Lord, thank You for simple gifts, like air to breathe, water, electricity and life itself. Help me to be more appreciative of what I have. Help me to be an encourager to others. Help me to suppress thoughts of actions and words that can be harmful to others. Help me to see the good in others and to encourage the good in others. Amen.
Which Peanuts character does your life most closely align with, Charlie Brown or Lucy?
These readings are under copyright and are used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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