Lessons From…Parks and Rec

Parks and Recreation is one of my favorite currently running shows. Sadly, it will start its final season on the air in 2015, and we will have to say good bye to our favorite Pawnee residents. In light of this information, I marathoned (binge watched?) a few seasons over the weekend, specifically seasons 5 and 6. Like with most of my preferred shows, Parks and Rec also contains a few choice tidbits that work exceptionally well as life lessons. Now, I could honestly pick just about any episode to examine, but in this instance I will be focusing on Season 6 episode 1 “London.”

The most obvious pearl of wisdom in the episode occurs during the discussion between Ron and Leslie. Leslie is feeling unappreciated as a local politician after witnessing so many others who are beloved and cherished in their hometowns. Understandably, she is pissed off at Pawnee and is wondering what the point of it all is. To this, Ron responds, “You choose a thankless job, you can’t be upset when nobody thanks you. Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness.”

So good it belonged as a screen grab.

So good it belonged as a screen grab.

It is pretty obvious but the lesson still merits stating Don’t start chasing applause and acclaim. That way lies madness. We all want to be appreciated and seen, but if that is our endgame then we are destined to fail Hell, even if we succeed, all we managed to do was please others with our efforts. Like Leslie, what we should be doing is chasing our passions and trying our best at excelling at them. In doing so, regardless of popularity, you can still look at yourself in the mirror.

So that was the direct, obvious lesson, but the one that stuck more with me was the indirect one that was basically a commentary on the nature of friendship. Near the end of the episode, April, a dark, slacker intern, reads Leslie the letter she wrote on why Leslie was deserving of an award. While this voice over narration happens, the audience sees Ron Swanson on his own Leslie Knope guided adventure to his personal bliss, in this case the Lagavulin factory on isles off the English coast. 

Both characters, Ron and April, are considered loners, unapproachable, stand offish, and generally unwelcome to human interaction. Yet six seasons later, Ron is exploring a foreign country, something he abhors, and April is willing to put in effort for someone else all because of the friendship they developed with Leslie. As well, she knows them so well that she helped April develop her skills into a worthwhile career and created the perfect trip for Ron. 

Scotch, a seaside cliff, and a good story. What else do you need?

Scotch, a seaside cliff, and a good story. What else do you need?

Which brings us to the lesson: Find good friends who challenge you, care about you, evolve with you, and ultimately bring out the best in you. These types of relationships are not easy to come by and require a certain amount of upkeep. However, these friendships are also among the most important relationships we can have. As much importance as we place on romantic relationships, more often it is our friends that influence our personalities, goals, and everyday lives. Essentially we are social creatures and the pack we choose has a significant impact on who we become. Wouldn’t it be better to be friends with someone who understands your love of refined, brown liquor and is willing to have a dumb conversation over a cool glass of said alcohol? 

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

Also, for those who know…The Sentry Gathers.

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