Un­der­stand­ing the Grinch as a metaphor of be­long­ing

The Covington News - - Agriculture & outdoors - Terri Kim­ble Colum­nist

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.

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