Sesame Street celebrates 50th anniversary

"Sesame Street" is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos says it's important to appreciate the people in your "neighborhood."

Fifty years ago, I was living on Gellatly Street in Wenatchee. That same year there was a new street that everyone was talking about in our town. In fact, most every city and town in the nation boasted having a new street by the same name.

“Sesame Street” debuted in 1969. To celebrate this milestone in children’s television programming, the place I work has an elaborate display of Sesame Street memorabilia. Even though the residents on our campus are now senior adults, they were parents of preschoolers when Sesame Street took to the airwaves of Public Television.

Because I was a senior in high school, I wasn’t one of Jim Henson’s disciples. But I was aware enough of what was going on in popular culture to recognize the names of his Muppets who were making news. There was Kermit the Frog, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, in addition to Bert and Ernie.

I also was clued in to some of the music associated with the residents on Sesame Street. The lyrics of one of the songs asked “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” As with Mister Rogers, Jim Henson and his writers and puppeteers were concerned with helping children recognize and appreciate the various people that contributed to their lives. Both “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street” introduced their viewers to vocations that help make our world go ‘round.

Having an appreciation for those “people in our neighborhood” is just as important to us as to our children or grandchildren. And yet it is easy to take such people for granted. With a month to go before our nation celebrates Thanksgiving, I’m all for getting an early start and finding ways to express gratitude to those individuals who make life meaningful to us every day. Here’s hoping you’re willing to join me.

Make a list of those professions without which your little world would not turn as smoothly? There’s your mail carrier, FedEx driver and Amazon Prime delivery person. There’s your barista, the person who does your nails and your hair stylist. There’s your landscaper, your housecleaner and pizza delivery guy. There’s your pastor, priest or rabbi. How about your doctor, pharmacist and therapist?

Life is a challenge to be sure. But can you imagine how much more challenging your life would be if these people were not in your neighborhood? And most of them are not accustomed to being thanked for the necessary — often overlooked — work they do.

Because there are so many, it’s unrealistic to give each person on your list a Starbucks gift card. But you could write a handwritten note and leave it where they could find it. Personal expressions of thanks are not as common as they once were, but you likely can personally attest to how an unexpected note of appreciation makes you feel.

There’s only one holiday that even comes close to honoring the jobs people do that make the world a better place. But since Labor Day is considered the unofficial end of summer, we tend to spend that day coupled with two other days and celebrate ourselves. Labor Day is typically observed at the beach or the lake or grilling in our backyard. We enjoy a long weekend, but we come up short when it comes to showing thanks to people who most deserve it.

Maybe we need a new national holiday called “People in Our Neighborhood Day.” Since Bert and Ernie could help us get started, perhaps they can tell us how to get to Sesame Street?

Greg Asimakoupoulos is a Wenatchee native living on Mercer Island, where he is the Faith/Values columnist for the Mercer Island Reporter.