While I was cooped up inside with cold weather earlier this winter, I rewatched the TV show “Parks and Recreation,” about the parks and rec staff in fictional Pawnee, Indiana. My favorite thing about this great sitcom is the character development. I always say every character is more than one thing. Every one of them is nuanced and well written. In rewatching, I was reminded that fictional characters can be an example of real life lessons.
Leslie Knope: Leslie, the deputy director of the parks and recreation department, is hard working and passionate (perhaps a bit too passionate). Sometimes her enthusiasm can be intimidating, but she’s also a kind and thoughtful friend. From Leslie, I learned that passion projects are worth fighting for. She shows us that you don’t have to be cutthroat to be ambitious. I also learned to never take no for an answer.
Ron Swanson: Ron is the director of parks and rec. Although he works for the government, he believes the best government is none at all. He’s intensely private but opens up to those close to him. He’s gruff but caring, loves the outdoors and hates technology. From Ron I learned that sometimes it’s best to disconnect and focus on the genuine people and places right in front of me.
Ann Perkins: Ann, Leslie’s best friend, is a nurse who goes through a series of romantic misadventures. She is a supportive friend and tends to be the most rational person in the room. Ann showed me to not be afraid to put myself first sometimes. When life is confusing, sometimes you have to take care of yourself in order to best help your friends.
Tom Haverford: Tom dreams big and starts several businesses throughout the series. He imagines a life where he lives large. Tom shows us to set big goals, work hard to achieve them and not to limit your dreams. To Tom, no bar is too high to reach.
Andy Dwyer: Andy might not be the sharpest tool in the shed but he’s enthusiastic about everything he does and loves his friends deeply. Andy reminded me to never lose the childlike wonder of the world around you. Whether it’s dressing up for Halloween or just eating your favorite candy, it’s OK to enjoy the simple pleasures.
April Ludgate: April, the intern who works her way up in the department, likes to act like she hates everything and everybody (except her husband, Andy) and doesn’t work at anything. In reality, she’s helpful and hardworking. From April I learned that you can’t judge a book by its cover. An angry pessimist might have a softer side.
Ben Wyatt: Ben is the nerdy budget- specialist-turned-city-manager who eventually marries Leslie. His political career started when he was elected mayor of his hometown at age 18. He subsequently destroyed the town’s budget when he tried to create a winter sports complex. From Ben I learned not to dwell on the past. Despite failures, you can still move on and be successful. He also showed me that you don’t have to be heartless to be practical.
Chris Traeger: Pawnee’s city manager is an always-positive health nut who wishes only the best for everyone around him. When he goes through a rough patch, he goes to therapy and stays as optimistic as ever. From Chris, I learned that a positive attitude can’t solve everything, but at least it helps. He also teaches us to get help when we need it.
Donna Meagle: Donna is the department’s sassy office manager who, like Tom, loves the finer things in life. Donna taught me to stay confident in myself and my abilities. From Donna, I learned that I should never question whether or not I can accomplish my goals. And sometimes it’s OK to treat yourself.
Jerry Gergich: Jerry (also known as Garry, Larry and Terry) tends to be the butt of all the office’s jokes. He’s clumsy but underneath it all, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for his co-workers. From Jerry, I learned to turn the other cheek sometimes. Even if people don’t treat you well, you can still show them kindness.