Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot…
But the Grinch, who lived just north of Who-ville did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Thus begins one of the masterpieces of western literature, Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This story is so much of our culture (by the way, “Grinch” is automatically capitalized by my word processing program) that we forget how much we can learn from it.

We all know a Grinch. (Or maybe we are the Grinch that everybody else knows.) Here are a few insights that the Whos down in Who-ville can offer us for help in living with a Grinch:

  • They didn’t invade his personal space and force him to join their Christmas celebrations. They didn’t preach; they simply let their lives be an example. They did their Who-thing in their cozy homes and let him simmer in his own anger up on his cold grinchy mountain.
  • They kept a good grasp of what Christmas was about. Although they had their preparations for the big day with gifts and feasts, they still had a joyous gathering even when those things were taken away. They did not get caught up in the external materialism; they saw the bigger picture of what they were truly celebrating.
  • They gave him the benefit of the doubt, as when he was stealing the tree and was caught by Cindy Lou-Who (who was not more than two). They showed forgiveness even when it was clear that he stole all their stuff for the sole purpose of messing up their holiday. They did not waste time trying to hunt him down; they stayed focused on singing while hand in hand with the other Whos.

Because of the above, he was confronted with something completely different, which shattered his grinchy worldview. He was jarred out of his own self-absorption and was able to open his mind to other ideas:

And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before!
“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”

The last thing we can learn from the Whos is the ability to live with mystery, to let go and acknowledge that there are some things we don’t, or perhaps can’t, understand:

And what happened then…?
Well…in Who-ville they say
That the Grinch’s small heart
Grew three sizes that day!

This change of heart on the part of the Grinch led to a change in action. Not only did he have a sudden insight but he then followed through on his new conviction. He did what was necessary to make reparations to those whom he had wronged:

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light
And he brought back the toys! And the food for the feast!

Lastly, the Whos were able to recognize this transformed Grinch, and opened their hearts to forgive him and place him in a position of honor:

The Grinch carved the roast beast!

I should point out here that while the carving of the roast beast was a privilege, it was also a position of serving as it meant he would eat last. He was given distinction by the very beings he had tried to victimize, and in turn, he was humble enough to be at the end of the line at the banquet.

May we all keep this message in our hearts through this, and every, season.