Over on Facebook, there’s this trend going around where people are changing their profile pictures to pictures of their favorite cartoon characters from childhood. (If you don’t know what a “Facebook profile” or a “profile picture” are, keep reading—it won’t matter.) I have not changed mine, mostly because it’s such a hassle to change my profile pic that I don’t do it that often anymore anyway. But if I did change my picture to my favorite cartoon charater, it would have to be Linus Van Pelt.
You remember Linus, don’t you? Charlie Brown’s best friend was known for carrying around his old blue blanket, and after years of reading Peanuts cartoons and watching the holiday specials, I always wondered why Linus never gave up that blanket as he got older. But then, the Peanuts gang never have gotten older, have they? Once, when Linus’s sister, Lucy, asked him what he was going to do with his blanket when he got older, Linus replied, “Maybe I’ll make it into a sport coat.” Linus was often the one person to whom Charlie Brown could turn in the middle of one of his angst-ridden moments, and he usually had something witty, wise, or mature to say about the situation. One of my favorite lines comes from when Linus himself was having a bad day, and he said to Charlie Brown, “I love humanity—it’s people who drive me crazy.” We’ve all had days like that.
Linus’s sense of wonder and faith is another quality that I like about him. He is the only kid in town who believes in the Great Pumpkin, who brings candy to all the good children in the world on Halloween, and he proves his faith by standing in the pumpkin patch with Sally all night long. He believes in the Easter Beagle, who shows up to bring eggs to him and everyone else at Easter. Linus is the one who guided all the kids on their trip through France in one TV special, and he knew all about the battle of D-Day, which he described in moving detail. Even if people drive him crazy on occasion, Linus’s faith in humanity, and in the wonder and myster that still exist in the world, are inspirational.
In the Charlie Brown Christmas special (you know, the one with the scrawny tree), Charlie Brown is asked to direct the children’s Christmas pageant, and in the midst of all the chaos, he begins to question what he’s really doing there. No one listens, the play is in a mess, and they don’t seem to care about Christmas at all—just the partying and presents. Even old Snoopy the beagle has “gone commercial,” as he decorates his dog house with thousands of decorations and lights in order to win a contest. “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is really all about?” Charlie bemoans. “Sure, Charlie Brown,” says Linus, pulling his thumb out of his mouth, and he launches into one of the most touching renditions of the Christmas story ever captured in animation. (See it here.)
“And on earth, goodwill and peace to all…” that’s what Christmas is about, for Charlie Brown and for all of us. Sure, Linus has this weird thing with his thumb-sucking and blue blanket, but who among us doesn’t have some attachments that we just can’t seem to get rid of? Sometimes the Christian faith is accused of being a “blue blanket” or a crutch to support weak people. But I say that when you are broken down and beaten by the world, you need a crutch from time to time to help you get stronger. If we all had the simplicity of spirit and profound sense of wonder of Linus Van Pelt, the world just might be a more peaceful place—even if people drive us crazy sometimes.