Most of us will begin decorating, shopping and planning for Christmas in the coming days if we have not already done so. I’ve begun many of my preparations by visiting the stories while there is still lots of inventory from which to choose. I’ve noticed that the Grinch is particularly popular this year. He’s always been part of our yuletide celebrating because somehow my family has great fondness for him.
It began when my husband and I were children and we watched the Dr. Seuss cartoon on television with Boris Karloff narrating the tale. As children we learned how to sing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The words of that song were pure genius and we laugh at them to this very day. In honor of those beloved memories my husband wears a really ugly Grinch t-shirt every Christmas day and we scatter Grinch memorabilia around the house with our other decorations.
While we laugh at the Grinch we often obscure the profound meaning of his story with our focus on his Scrooge-like ways. In truth he was a tortured soul, isolated from the rest of society by prejudice and misunderstanding. He was a foundling initially loved by two women who saw his goodness in spite of how different he was. At school, however, he was bullied and often shunned. His attempts to be part of the group went unanswered, angry and frustrated he moved as far away from the town and its people as possible. His only companion was his faithful dog. There his feelings of hurt and anger grew and grew until one Christmas he focused on seeking revenge by stealing the trappings of Christmas that seemed to be so all important to the townspeople.
Of course we all know the story of the Grinch stealing presents and stockings and even the roast beast for the Christmas feast. He was about to push the sleigh loaded with all of the holiday cheer over a precipice when he heard the people of the village below singing happily even without their worldly goods. It was then that he realized that sweet little Cindy Lou was atop the sleigh and in danger of falling onto the rocks below. His heart swelled and he saved her and all of the presents just in the knick of time. He became a changed man.
We rarely pay enough attention to the Grinch’s reconciliation with himself and the people of the town. He found the goodness that had always been in his heart and that goodness overcame his anger from being shunned by many of the people in the village. At the same time, Cindy Lou taught everyone the meaning of unconditional love. It is a true Christmas story as earnest as It’s A Wonderful Life.
In truth we have many Grinches living among us who have become that way because they were deemed to be different or unsavory or unworthy by the societies in which they live. Being treated with disdain over and over again tears down the soul. Over time it sometime leads to seething anger and maybe even crime. Being an outcast is difficult and rarely leads to good outcomes. Peace only comes from everyone setting aside their preconceived notions about each other and demonstrating kindness and understanding.
The Christmas story is all about love. A baby was born in a manger and that baby would grow up to be Jesus. His message remained the same throughout his very short lifetime on this earth. He embraced outcasts, cured the sick, bent rules to perform miracles. He loved children and women and even prodigal sons. He told us to love each other the same way we love ourselves. He would have loved the Grinch and would have urged us to do so as well.
The Christmas story is about forgiveness. We know that eventually Jesus would die on a cross like a common criminal. He would remind us as he was dying that he was willing to forgive those who tortured him. We too have to power to renew our determination to be our better selves. All we need do is sincerely have contrition for our sins. We in turn must be willing to forgive others.
The Christmas story is told in so many different ways but its message is universal. Our task is to be good to one another, even the least among us that we sometimes do not understand. The story of the Grinch is a parable. With humor and rhyme and song it reminds us that during the holiday season there is nothing more important than embracing our fellow humans no matter how they look, or speak or believe.
Love was born at Christmas time. Spread good cheer wherever you go. Welcome all. Watch your heart grow. Be the Grinch!