farewell pawnee

a thank you letter to parks and rec

Tonight is the series finale of one of my favorite shows. I’m not talking about a favorite right now, I mean all time favorite level.

Tonight the countless fans of the NBC series Parks and Recreation will say one final farewell to Leslie Knope and the gang. Tonight we will say goodbye to the lovely residents of Pawnee that we’ve came to know and love.

Parks and Rec Cast

Amy Poehler is an amazing, admirable woman, as are the many other incredibly talented actors on the show. Well, some of them are admirable men, but you get the point. And throughout it’s seven season run, the characters they’ve played have made me laugh to the point of tears, but they’ve also left a lasting mark. Watching Knope and Co., I learned some valuable lessons. Thanks Parks and Recreation, thanks NBC, thank you to all the producers, directors, writers, and everyone else who made any contribution to creating this little television gem.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

IT’S OKAY TO CARE ABOUT THINGS

Leslie is Perf

Before Leslie Knope, I think it would’ve been hard to find such a lovable character with such strong feelings about, well, everything. Be it her love for scrapbooking or her hatred for Eagleton (in the early days), Leslie never felt indifferent toward a single thing. She cared about her friends; she cared about complete strangers. She cared about insignificant events and minuscule details. Before Leslie, it wasn’t cool to care. She showed us that being obsessive and neurotic wasn’t always a bad thing. She showed us that working hard and putting 100% into whatever you’re doing is good and admirable, not something to make fun of. Leslie made it okay to be passionate.

EVERYONE DESERVES NICE THINGS, AT LEAST SOMETIMES

Treat Yo' Self

Sure Donna and Tom’s treat yo’ self philosophy was a bit over the top at times (lots of times), but they taught us something valuable nonetheless. Donna and Tom knew it was important to love yourself, and treat yo’ self. Sometimes splurging on that new designer bag is worth it simply because you, yourself, are worth it. We all deserve nice things. Sometimes that means taking matters into our own hands to get them, and that’s alright. You should never feel bad about loving yourself, and putting yourself first.

GROWING UP DOESN’T HAVE TO MAKE YOU BORING

Johnny Karate

Thank you Andy Dwyer for being thirty something and making a career out of make believe.Thank you Ben Wyatt for being a highly prominent government figure and still playing with action figures and imagining up the mythical realm in which Cones of Dunshire exists. These two incredibly different characters both manage to show us that imagination doesn’t exist exclusively in childhood. You can keep dreaming and imagining and playing for as long as you live. And if Parks and Rec hadn’t already made that clear enough, we can thank April Ludgate on the final season for facing this dilemma head on and discovering this lesson for herself. I’m sure no matter how successful she is in D.C., April will always be part wolf or a witch or both because being a grown up is only boring if you let it be.

FRIENDS ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING

Friends and Waffles

Leslie has some crazy, weird, random relationships, but each of her friends prove incredibly wonderful and important at one time or another. Be it her relationship with the ethnically ambiguous, beautiful nurse Ann Perkins or her stoic, meat loving boss Ron Swanson, as the show develops we see time and time again that Leslie couldn’t make it without her unlikely crew of pals, and they couldn’t make it without her either. The members of the parks department are the best type of family; they’re friends for life, they chose each other, and will stand by each other. We should all be so loving and genuine and caring toward those we call friends.

WOMEN CAN DO EVERYTHING 

Parks and Recreation has a cast full of strong, independent female characters, not just Leslie Knope. Donna supports herself for years, making bank as a real estate agent, before finally choosing to marry Joe in this final season. April is bright, unique, and full of natural talent. Yes, she is Andy’s wife, but she’s never identified as just Andy’s wife. She’s an enigmatic, interesting character all her own. Ann only truly finds herself when she decides she doesn’t need a man to be happy, and of course subsequently finds love, but not before finding her independence. When Ron finally rids himself of all the Tammys and finds a real woman to love, Diane, she’s a no nonsense single mother of two who is also a successful school principal. Of course Leslie takes the cake. She’s an obvious advocate for gender equality, and the show has spent countless episodes touching on the subject. I’m going to miss seeing someone, fictional or not, who denounces female stereotypes as often as she does.

BREAKFAST FOOD SOLVES ALMOST EVERYTHING

Breakfast

I’m very serious. Maybe the solution to world peace is waffles for everyone. If we just focused on eating primarily bacon and eggs, we could probably morph into superheroes. Breakfast food is incredibly powerful. It should be eaten for as many meals as possible throughout the day, and if you can squeeze in a few snack waffles as well, then do that too. You’ll be better for it. Those around you will be better for it. The whole world will just be better. I’ve never heard of any other food, like a calzone or something, doing that kind of good in the world.

As I finish writing these final thoughts on Parks and Rec, I feel like I’ve been a part of this family, like I’m saying goodbye tonight too. I’ve enjoyed these seven seasons and as the series ends tonight, I’ll be hoping that for the rest of my life I’ll be as loyal as Ron Swanson, as confident as Tom Haverford, as optimistic as Chris Traeger, as funny as Andy Dwyer, as caring as Ann Perkins, as smart as Ben Wyatt, as inventive as April Ludgate, as fierce as Donna Meagle, as determined as Leslie Knope, and even as kindhearted as Jerry/Larry/Terry/Garry Gergich; unless perhaps I could be Lil’ Sebastian, then of course I’d just be him.

ADDITIONAL NOTE:

Just days before the finale, Harris Wittels, a writer, executive producer, and occasional actor on the show died of an apparent overdose. Surely the world will have less laughs without him. We should let his death serve as a reminder that nothing is permanent, that we should not take our friends for granted, and to not be afraid to ask for help when you are hurting. It’s as obvious that Harris was an integral part of making such an excellent show as it is that his presence will be missed. I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment in my writing to honor his creativity and humor.

Let’s hear it from my fellow fans. Who’s excited for tonight’s premiere? How do you expect the show to end? Who are your favorite characters? What are the greatest lessons you’ve learned from the show? Tell me what you’re thinking in the comments below.

Photo Credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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