Peppermint Patty: Lead the way, Lucy

The book "You're a Leader Charlie Brown?" has been sitting on our kitchen counter for more than a week waiting to be gifted to a friend who uses the type of information it contains to improve and facilitate communication within large companies — and build alliances across community organizations.

Note the question mark at the end of the title.

It's an entertaining read — an ideal Christmas gift and good conversation fodder for the Thanksgiving-table discussions. The author, Carla Curtsinger, fancies herself as “a bit of Snoopy with a touch of Lucy.” She clearly knows the topic and intersperses her narrative and that of other authors with Peanuts cartoons.

The central message speaks to “getting the best out of yourself and others” using the Peanuts comic strip characters to pave the way.

Do you remember those characters? There’s “shy and withdrawn” Charlie B., “pushy” Lucy, “self-absorbed” Snoopy, “sunny” Sally,” “zealous” Schroeder, “introspective” Linus and (my personal favorite), Peppermint Patty. She is described as “raucous.” That may be why I like her so much.

Aging women, take special note: This may not resonate at the moment (wait for it) but it appears it will be up to us to save the planet — and we may need to get a little raucous in order to do that. The word “raucous,” by the way, is defined as, “Making or constituting a disturbingly harsh and loud noise. “

Creating a “ruckus” might be the better call to action. We can debate that over a cup of tea.

On any given day, any of us (men or women) might exhibit some or all of the characteristics implied in the Peanuts’ characters. Maybe the original message was, "Apply the best of who you really are at the most appropriate moment" — in a “never give up” kind of way, as Charlie Brown would put it. “Respectfully raucous,” for example.

This book is full of reminders about how to live our lives with grace and truth. It contains phrases like “pay attention and show it,” and “hear what isn’t said.” The following words spoke to me particularly loudly and feel timely: “When things feel out of control, don’t focus on reducing what you don’t know.”

There’s a public service announcement running on some television networks lately that displays a white screen with a red apple in the center. The narrator calmly says. “This is an apple. Some people want to call it a banana. They might repeat that word “banana” a lot. They might even put it in all caps — BANANA. But it’s an apple.”

At the end of the piece, two words appear, “Facts First.”

We need all the facts. And I think sometimes we benefit from having our facts presented with gentle humor and nostalgic cartoon illustrations. Facts that remind us, as Charlie Brown might say, to “Keep your eye on the ball and get a bigger glove.“

Lead the way, Lucy.

— Sharon Johnson is a retired Oregon State University associate professor. Reach her at Sharon@agefriendlyinnovators.org.

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