Your kids can tell you a lot about who they are by the costumes they choose for Halloween. This year my twelve-year-old daughter has chosen to go as one of the great anti-heroes in American literature—Charlie Brown (tied with Sponge Bob).
Every Peanuts fan knows the Great Pumpkin story. Charlie Brown, pure of heart, forever trying his best to do the right thing but forever failing and never fitting in with his peers, attempts to create the simplest of Halloween costumes—a ghost made from a bed sheet with two holes cut out for his eyes. What could go wrong? But after several cuts, his ghost costume ends up a swiss cheese of mistakes. He gets ridiculed and gets rocks for treats.
Like many, I love anti-heroes. A broken, flawed hero attracts us because we see ourselves in the hero. We see our humanity with all its imperfections, and vicariously we want them to succeed beyond all expectations.
Charlie Brown constantly struggles to rise above his limitations and faults. Introspective and sincere, the spiritual leader among his friends, he suffers not only his failures but also the failure of his friends to understand him and to choose what is most true and lasting.
I smile with pride at my daughter’s choice. She diligently cuts out numerous holes in an old bed sheet to mimic Charlie Brown rather than donning a superhero costume as many of her peers will.
Her costume resembles Charlie Brown’s perfectly, right down to the number of holes. She puts it on for school. Her classmates wear theirs. She returns home that day disappointed nobody knew who she was supposed to be. Ach, this generation! She succumbs to the pressure and changes to a zombie.
She wanders out into the Halloween night, one with the other ghouls and witches and monsters as a zombie, still a loser, though a villain loser not a hero loser.
Her first instinct to go as Charlie Brown, I think, was the right choice. It’s a better expression of the self I see her becoming—a seeker after the most meaningful things in life, which usually move unseen beneath the surface, residing hidden behind flaws and failures.
Learning disabilities and disappointments have not overcome her. Her sincerity, thoughtfulness, and generosity, I believe, will continue to penetrate the dark nights of this and future Halloweens. I hope she’ll be among those who have discovered genuine greatness in the face of limitations. Jesus taught this: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt 5).
I’m convinced my 12-year-old will see God in the twists and turns and contingencies of her life, and because she sees God, she’ll be blessed with a wealth beyond normal understanding. That’s more than any father could ask for, and she’s on her way. That’s what makes me smile.