For once the dreary gray sky seemed right. According to the local weather channel, Santa Rosa got nearly half of this month's rainfall today. It would be a depressing setting, if it hadn't felt so fitting to the news we woke up to this morning that our most celebrated citizen, Charles Schulz, had died last night. (The link is to the notice in his hometown paper, The Press Democrat.)
"Peanuts" is part of the lives of millions of people around the world, but the reserved, self-effacing man who created the comic strip was a part of our community. He and his family have contributed heavily to local arts, education and charitable causes. In return, we allowed him the space to lead the life he wanted, with the dignity befitting the serene philosopher he was.
Most of the obituaries will focus on the comic strip and its characters, and that's as it should be. That's how the man wanted to be remembered, after all. When Santa Rosa was looking for a way to honor him on his retirement, he vetoed any ideas of naming a street after him or erecting a statue of him. This summer the city will commission a statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy.
Reading "Peanuts" as a child, I identified with Charlie Brown, and not just because he, like me (and like Schulz) was the son of a barber. I admired the quiet dignity with which Charlie Brown accepts his bad luck yet kept striving. He puts a baseball team on the field every spring, even though they never win a game. He always allows himself to believe that Lucy won't pull the football back.
The resilient faith he always shows in basic human decency is the best gift "Peanuts" leaves with the world. Naïve or not, this faith is what has made the strip so widely loved and admired. Hope will forever be a commodity that enriches our lives, and it will be hard to replace the fount of hope we've just lost. We need all the inspiration and encouragement we can get.