Understanding the Grinch as a metaphor of belonging
The holidays are upon us when every night brings another nostalgic movie about Santa or Rudolph.
My favorite has always been “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
Many of my friends prefer the simplicity of the original to the newer Jim Carrey version, but I enjoy them equally.
It seems to me kind of like reading — I read a lot of books, from the autobiographies and novels I most enjoy to books about pigeons driving buses and monkeys jumping on beds that my 4-year-old cousin prefers.
Each time I read a book, I find that my experiences affect what I take from the writing.
“Love You Forever” is one of those books that young children find entertaining, and even ninth graders in my office last week recited from memory as a favorite book — but adults can be reduced to tears while reading it.
Youth reading Harry Potter books see the fictional story just as a story, but each time I read the books again I find deeper meaning about a child trying to find a place where he belongs.
The original Grinch cartoon is like reading the book as a child — we take it all at face value.
The newer movie shows what happens when our imaginations run wild, and we begin to wonder about the Grinch’s back story.
4-H’ers chose the Grinch as our theme for the Covington Christmas parade that took place Saturday, so as I’ve read and watched the story again, my trainings on the essential elements of youth development as recognized by 4-H came to mind.
Mastery is something we believe every child should have the opportunity to accomplish.
The Grinch accomplishes no small feat in hauling all the Christmas decorations and gifts from Whoville in a single night, with only the help of a small dog and a tiny sleigh.
Likewise, I see youth and adults who manage to accomplish huge feats — just not always for the benefit of others.
If the Grinch had been a 4-H’er, I hope his agent could have focused his ingenuity and creativity in a more productive project, like planning a big service project, collecting Toys for Tots or collecting and distributing books for Leap into Learning.
With his ability to make an outfit from a curtain, even if it did not have quite the style of Scarlett O’Hara, maybe he would have even explored the Fashion Revue project.
Generosity is another element necessary for youth development.
We encourage fifth graders to collect items for service projects, such as pop tabs, Toys for Tots or children’s books.
Middle and high school youth take a larger role in the planning and implementing of each project.
The Grinch seems to have been a generous child, as evidenced by his homemade angel gift for Martha May.
After the other children laughed at him, however, he ran off to Mt. Crumpit and did not again discover the value of giving until the very end of the movie, when his heart grew three sizes.
Independence is another element we find necessary.
The Grinch did not have a problem with this element, but unfortunately he was so independent he moved off to Mt. Crumpit to plot the downfall of Whoville.
He took care of himself, scavenged for food and clothes, cared for his dog and developed plans for the big heist.
Perhaps the essential element to the Grinch’s story, though, is belonging.
Even in a town full of people as varied as the Whos, the Grinch didn’t fit in. At school, the other kids teased. The one child who seemed to understand the Grinch did not stand up for him when he needed it most.
Although the two women raising him loved him very much, it seems we’re always looking for acceptance by the others around us.
Children and youth need a place to belong, and will search until they find a group which accepts them — positive or negative.
4-H offers a wide variety of clubs and activities where youth can find a positive place to fit.
Membership is free and has no special requirements. Activities range from free competitions to competitively priced camps and conferences.
We hope you enjoyed the Covington Christmas parade this Saturday, as 4-H recognized one of the greenest figures of Christmas.