Residents were outraged in the town of Reading, PA in November when the city erected a very sad-looking Christmas tree in town center. Residents were so bothered by it that their disapproval made national news. The City Council president even led a charge to have the tree replaced.
When I first heard the story, I thought of my own Christmas tree experiences growing up. Each year, dad and I headed out to pick our tree and my mom would remind us to pick a tree that was “healthy, full and not too large.” And each year, dad and I would return with what my mom called a “Charlie Brown Tree.” My intentions were good–I never meant to ignore my mother’s requests–but as we walked through the rows of trees, there was always that one, you know the tree I’m talking about, the straggly, half-dead already tree that was missing branches on an entire side, was entirely too tall for the amount of needles left on its limbs and typically, it leaned drastically to one side, which would cause the ornaments to fall of the day we put them on.
I felt sad for the residents of Reading, PA who thought that their Christmas tree was an embarrassment. I wished they could see it for its beauty and purpose–to bring people together and create a sense of connection with one another.
This week, a new report came out–the city had decided to embrace their “ugly” tree and even dubbed it a “Charlie Brown Tree.” People were coming from all over the country to see the tree and celebrate it’s imperfection and beauty.
Reminiscing over my own love-affair with the “Charlie Brown” imperfections in life, I realize that it’s easier to embrace them when they are imperfections that are not my own. The things I view as strength and courage in others because of their imperfection, I typically view as inexcusable failures in myself.
It’s terribly hard to embrace things that have the potential to make us feel vulnerable, exposed or not-enough. Lately, I haven’t written much. It’s not that I don’t want to, I’ve just let the fact that I haven’t had the same luxury of time to write stop me from writing anything, in fear that it wouldn’t the best I could do. Working out has sadly the same theme. Sidelined for a few months after foot surgery, I’ve let my disappointment of losing my normal “fitness” level stop me from finding the time to do anything at all. And because I’ve been traveling a good bit the last month, I told myself that I shouldn’t even bother putting up a Christmas tree, since it wouldn’t be the quality of spirited decorating that I typically dedicate to this time of year. In the case of each of those things, I let my perspective that I would not do them well enough stop me from doing them at all, robbing me of the happiness I know I would get from them if I just tried.
Maybe there’s nothing to the story of tree in the town center of Reading, PA other than was something the media latched on to and made popular. I choose to see it as a great reminder that what is not-enough for some could be perfect to others. It’s a reminder to embrace my own imperfections and live more authentically because of them, not despite them. Everyone loves a good underdog success story but someone’s got to muster up the courage to be that underdog after all.