Every year, I watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and every year, I ask myself the same thing. Why didn’t Charlie Brown just say no?
At the start of the special, when Lucy again challenges Charlie Brown to kick the football that she’s holding, why doesn’t he say no? Why does he think that a national holiday would actually make Lucy hold the football long enough for him to kick it?
When Peppermint Patty decides to invite herself over for Thanksgiving dinner, why doesn’t he say just say no? Peppermint Patty (aka Priscilla) may not take no for an answer but why not at least try?
When Peppermint Patty tells him that she’s invited Franklin and Marcy over for dinner, why doesn’t Charlie just admit that he only knows how to make “cold cereal and maybe toast?”
When Linus suggests that he could have two dinners and then Snoopy and Woodstock volunteer to cater the whole affair, why doesn’t Charlie Brown say no? Doesn’t he know that anything he does is destined to go wrong? Couldn’t he see Snoopy wrestling with the folding chair and just said, “No, this isn’t going to work?”
When Peppermint Patty yells about only getting toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans for Thanksgiving, why doesn’t Charlie just kick her off of his property? No one would have blamed him.
And, when Peppermint Patty invites herself to go to Grandma Brown’s condo for Thanksgiving, why doesn’t he say no? Why, after all she’s done to him, does he still want to give her a good Thanksgiving?
It’s all about faith. All of the Charlie Brown holiday specials deal with faith. Not just spiritual faith (though that was always present) but also faith in the goodness of humanity (even if it is sometimes hard to find) and optimism for the future (even if Charlie sometimes didn’t share it).
Just as Linus believed in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie believed in Thanksgiving, a holiday where we give thanks for and appreciate our friends and family, even if they are sometimes crabby or if they don’t realize that pretzels and jelly beans are a great meal. Just as Snoopy believed that he could be a World War I flying ace and a published writer, Charlie Brown believed that a dog and a tiny bird could cater an entire holiday affair. And, just like how he’ll never stop believing that the little red-haired girl will someday notice him, Charlie Brown will never stop believing that he’s going to kick that ball. Charlie Brown never stops believing that things could go well even though they never do. He never stops believing that the next day could be better than the last and even if his friends and his dog aren’t perfect, he never stops being thankful for them.
That’s the lesson of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Never stop believing. Never lose track of what you have to be thankful for. Never let a dog and a bird cater your Thanksgiving dinner.