[…] Love, for Pawnee, has distinct ties to sacrifice. In one episode, Tom, April, Andy, and Donna admit that they go out for dinner every year on money they have collected in the office (one dollar for every joke at Jerry’s expense). Because of the “Jerry Filter” Tom installed on their email accounts, none of them are aware that Jerry has invited them to a lovely Christmas party at his home. When they try to come in, Ann keeps them outside until they do something nice for Jerry – and they end up giving him the Jerry Dinner money. Meanwhile, Ben and Leslie are ridiculously in love, but are constantly making sacrifices for each other. When Leslie’s job is threatened because of her relationship with Ben – who is a co-worker and technically her boss – Ben asks the City Manager, Chris, to fire him instead so that Leslie’s city council campaign won’t be affected. This reminds us of Christian love: The biggest example of love in the Bible is Christ dying for the sins of humanity – as Jesus says himself, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” And in Romans, Paul explains that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
[…] Parks and Rec seems to say that joy is not only a Perk of Being a Christian. Joy can also be found through fulfillment in work and relationships. Paul even says in verses throughout his epistles that he has joy upon seeing certain things or hearing good news, or other outside situations. Now, it is partly in Parks and Rec’s nature to be joyful, as it is a comedy show, but part of what sets Parks and Recreation apart from other sitcoms, even on the same network, is how happy or joyful the characters are. It is a satisfying show to watch because instead of laughing at Leslie and Ron, we are laughing with Leslie and Ron. And the happiness never seems forced. The characters remain steadfastly, deeply happy, even through difficult times. They get joy from their external situations as well as from something within themselves that allows them to have happiness regardless of outward situations – so such lasting happiness should not be discounted. The writers of Parks and Rec appear to believe in a joy that is attainable through friendships (and good attitudes, and well-timed jokes).
The Parks employees are also able to find strength for joy within themselves. They acknowledge and accept their faults and sadness, and often just how much their lives suck, and learn to pick themselves up from it. In a beautifully inspiring scene in a recent episode, Chris, who struggled with depression throughout the season and is only recently feeling better through therapy, encourages Andy, who is depressed because he failed his police academy exam. “Andy,” he says, “this is a very important moment for you. How we deal with tragedy defines who we are. I used to be terrible at it. Beyond terrible. You are not going to let this deflate you. You’re going to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and we will figure out what the next step is.” Chris certainly believes in a happiness from within, even when he calls this situation what it is: a tragedy.
[…] And in today’s world, writers in the entertainment industry (or at least those of the NBC Thursday night lineup) sees them as important, too. They see love and joy and the way that it makes life so much better…their message with Parks is that happiness and love are the most important things. As Leslie even says in one episode where she is trying to make a decision about future relationships, “We need to remember what’s important in life. Friends, waffles, work. Or waffles, friends, work. It doesn’t matter. But work is third.” Relationships, ultimately, will be more important to the Pawnee Parks employees than any other gain.