The Sesame Effect

How am I supposed to teach my son to embody love when we live in a country that always seems on the brink of a second civil war? Between Twitter wars,  gender politics, President Trump, and race relations, we are living in an age of outrage. How exhausting is that? Thankfully there is still one bright light shining over at PBS that can set a good example for him.

Through Sesame Street’s lovable monsters, and diverse human cast, they’re setting an example to children on how to become intelligent, independent, and empathetic humans. It’s actually in their mission of statement.

Sure, I remember watching Sesame Street when I was a kid. I could tell you what letter of the day the show was brought to you by. The songs were catchy too. And who didn’t love the Cookie Monster? But that was all I remember because that’s all a toddler is supposed to remember, right? Well, I also remember watching it on a television but times have changed. Today my son watches Sesame Street on my phone.

You know what I don’t remember? I don’t remember the show being so inclusive and welcoming to everyone. They preach compassion and respect without ever saying it. What I’ve learned from watching the show as an adult is that what the Muppets aren’t saying on screen is even more important than what they are saying.

Since 1969, Sesame Street has gone beyond simply teaching children ABCs and 123s. Big Bird, as curious as he is, has the compassion of a child. He loves everyone unconditionally, even people he doesn’t understand. It’s with that love and respect for everyone that Sesame Street has helped kids understand sensitive subjects like racism, divorce, deafness, autism, death, bullying, and adoption. They don’t teach by preaching, they lead by setting a good example through the characters actions.

Their lesson seems so simple: love and accept everyone. But it’s a lesson us grown-ups frequently forget. Maybe that’s because there are so many people in this world that we don’t understand. It’s easy to love family, friends, and people you’ve spent most of your life loving. But what about the people we avoid? What about the people who are different than us? Sure we are polite to them but do we take the time to engage with them the way one of the Muppets on Sesame Street would? 

When someone like Elmo gets the wrong idea about a person that’s different than him, no one sends the archers to the top of Mr. Hoopers store to defend the truth. Instead, Maria usually slows things down, explains things to Elmo respectfully, and that seems to get everyone back on track. Try that the next time your coworker delivers misinformation during a meeting.

 Most of all, Sesame Street reinforces to my Boy Wonder, in subtle ways, to follow The Golden Rule. Somehow they figured out that learning to be a good person is more important than all the ABC’s and 123’s we can throw at a kid.

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