Parks and Recreation Finale: A Reflection on Lenten Optimism

Leslie Knope*Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t watched the season finale of Parks and Recreation, stop reading now and go watch it. Then read this:            

This past Tuesday, NBC’s Parks and Recreation ended its seven season run with an emotional finale that had my roommate and me (definitely me more so) crying. All the characters I’ve grown to love got their happy endings, but even better, they got each other (what’s up Ann and Chris!).  Any fan of the show can attest to the witty, funny, and wonderful writing, led by a top-notch cast. After I dried up the tears from the floor, I had to think: Why do I love this show so much? Over the years, it’s made me laugh and cry, but so have many other shows. As I pondered this, I realize that I’ve always been a sucker for a show that lets hope and idealism peek through.

When so many shows and character leads come from a more cynical point of view, very few shows exist with the kind of optimism Parks and Rec held. Even in my own life, cynicism and a touch of pessimism surrounds me. That’s why Parks and Rec lives in a universe where I’d like to exist: Where people of all ideologies and personalities get along, and ultimately good people with good intentions, surrounded by those they respect, love, and admire can make the world a better place.

This reflection on optimism is exactly what I needed at this point of my Lenten journey. Though Lent only started last week, I’ve felt myself slowly giving up on the things I chose to give up on in the first place. Though reflective prayer has been going well, I’ve slowly slipped into the bad habits I was trying to avoid. I’ve been living the pre-Lent existence I wasn’t too happy about. I yearn to have the optimism of Leslie Knope (my TV hero!), with just the right amount of cynicism of a mustached Ron Swanson. Instead of wishing for their world, how can I make it my own?

Today, I thought about if my wishes reflect my actions, and if my actions reflect my thoughts. If I want a positive and peaceful world around me, it has to start with how I view the world. I mean if Leslie could works for YEARS in the parks department to now be President of the U.S. (that’s how I’m calling it), then I can definitely work through my own obstacles. The finale of Parks and Rec taught me that life changes, and so do people. Paths may stray different ways, but ultimately the friends and family that we love will be there always. Furthermore, a sense that everything might just be okay if I keep working hard to make it so.

“Love your neighbor and you would love yourself” is my Lenten version of Tom and Donna’s advice to “Treat Yo Self.” Today, I want to love stronger those around me, no matter who they are or what they do, and to not be discouraged by the obstacles that come my way. Furthermore, I want to live with the kind of optimism Parks and Rec characters have, and just maybe I’ll just have my 5000 candles in the wind (*sniff * bye bye Lil’ Sebastian).