That was the hardest I’d laughed in months.
That made me feel good for the first time in so long.
That felt like coming home.
If you’ve been on social media at all since Thursday night, chances are you’ve come across similar reactions to the Parks and Recreation reunion special. And maybe you even felt those things yourself as you sat down to watch Leslie, Ron, Ben, and so many others (Perd! Bobby Newport! Johnny Karate!) navigate their life in this time of social distancing in the way only they could—with silliness, sincerity, and a song.
Something special happened the second that familiar theme song started playing. For 30 minutes, things felt okay. The world didn’t seem like such a scary place—because Ben Wyatt was still making claymation videos and Leslie was still calling Ann every day (and making up new nicknames for her like “desert fox”) and Tom was still coming up with crazy business ideas.
These characters still felt like the people they were the last time we saw them, which is a testament to this cast and the writers. And for 30 minutes, it made me feel like the person I was when I last saw them too.
The world has changed a lot since we said goodbye to Parks and Recreation in 2015. It feels right that the show ended when it did—it was a product of a time that felt more hopeful. Or maybe I was just more hopeful back then.
I’m not the woman I was when I last saw Leslie Knope.
Sometimes that’s hard to admit. Sometimes I think about the hope and possibility I felt when Parks and Recreation ended, and it all feels so far away—both in the world around me and in my own life.
But for one night, it all felt a little closer than it has in a long time.
For one night, I felt a little closer to that version of me—hopeful and happy and determined to make a difference—than I have in a long time.
There’s something about the message of Parks and Recreation that makes being your best self feel attainable. It’s a message that says we can build a better world one small act of human connection at a time, which is exactly the message we need when things feel so overwhelming. So call your friends, video chat your beautiful tropical fish, and check in on the people you love. That’s how we’re going to make this world better than it was before—by being the people Parks and Recreation has always inspired us to be.
Leslie Knope taught us that no one achieves anything alone. And at a time when it’s so easy to think that we’re alone, that lesson means more than ever before. As I watched these characters come together to sing “5,000 Candles in the Wind,” I started crying because somehow—five years, one demoralizing presidential election, a pandemic, and seemingly an entire lifetime after we last said goodbye—this show still has the power to make us all feel like we’re not alone. We all came together once again on a Thursday night to share something special, to find joy, and to find a way back to a happier place—in the world and in ourselves.
Today, I’m going to choose hope—because it’s what Parks and Recreation has always taught me to do. I’m going to hope that we’re going to leave our houses someday and venture back into a world that’s a little better than it was before. And I’m going to hope that when we do, I’m going to be a little better than I was before too.
It’s what Leslie Knope would want from me, after all.
One of the best ways to channel your inner Leslie Knope is to donate any amount you can to an organization helping those in need during this time. I highly recommend visiting the Feeding America donation page connected to this special and doing your part to help make the world a little better than it was before.