How NBC’s “Parenthood” Showed Us How to Be Human


Well, the best show on television–NBC’s Parenthood–has ended. (Sob.) When I watched the series finale last week, crying my eyes out, I didn’t want to say goodbye. So, after the credits rolled, I went down an Internet rabbit hole of tweets, posts and articles about the show (you might have seen me post some on Twitter), which made me love it even more and also even sadder that it was over.

In one especially insightful article, writer Sarah Larson notes, “Just when you thought you’d had it, there’d be a scene of unexpected reconciliation, or a connection between a parent and a child, or loving wisdom and advice, and you’d cry cry cry, and remember what it’s like to feel fully human.”

I thought–exactly! That’s why I loved the show so much, why I craved the show, even–it reminded us how to be human, how to be good, how to be forever young (sorry I couldn’t help myself).

There’s a theological concept called shalom, and last year as a theology teacher I tried to show my students that the world started a certain way, where God called everything “good,” and it was. There was shalom, which is more robust than peace, it’s nature, humanity, relationships, all how they are supposed to be. When we went our own way and decided to be selfish and judgey and play God, we broke shalom, and things were no longer how they were supposed to be.

But we get to see glimpses of shalom here and now. To explain the concept to my young students, I asked them to remember a time when everything was pretty much perfect–they were in a place they loved, with people they loved, doing something they loved, and maybe even thought to themselves, “Ah. This is how it’s supposed to be.” Their faces would take on a sweet, nostalgic glow.

We all want that, and I believe that Parenthood often gave us a glimpse of shalom–how it’s supposed to be–in a family setting. Were any of the characters perfect? Absolutely not. But they taught us to be brave (you think the family name “The Bravermans” was an accident?), to refuse to take the easy way out in life, to meet conflict head on but with humility and an aim for reconciliation. They showed us how to apologize, how to make things right, how to forgive. They reminded us that often, life doesn’t go the way you want it to, but it can really turn out OK anyway. They demonstrated how true success in life is found in healthy relationships. They gave us pictures of redemption and restoration, and even the hard work and awkwardness that goes into it.

The Bravermans’ adventures and dramas and delights perfectly act out that classic Frederick Buechner quote: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Mostly, Parenthood showed how beautiful and brilliant and brutal it is to be human, and how it’s all completely worth it.

**If you haven’t seen Parenthood, I’m impressed you read this far. And I hope that now you log in to Netflix and begin watching season 1.

 What did you love about Parenthood?


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