On Leslie Knope and Wholehearted Living

IMG_5710 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Most mornings, I run on the treadmill in my basement rather than leave the house at an ungodly hour in the biting cold. The basement is dark and cold too, but it has the added advantage of a small shelf where I perch my iPad to watch tv. I’ve run through Breaking Bad, Modern Family, Scandal, Frasier, Gilmore Girls, and Friday Night Lights, to name a few. Good stories are a powerful motivator. So is cake.

Often I find myself a good five years behind everyone else in terms of entertainment. I’m a late adopter of everything. I have a weird hang-up about following the crowd when the crowd says read this or watch that. Apparently, the statute of limitations on my crazy is up after five years. I currently enjoy everything the general public loved way back in 2010. This spring, I finally started watching Parks and Recreation. I’ve had quite a few near misses on the treadmill from laughing so hard. Humor and conveyor belts are a tricky combination.

Can I tell you how much I adore Leslie Knope? I do. I find her outlook on life utterly refreshing. She is genuine and charming and  sincere, qualities your rarely see in tv or in real life. Sarcasm, snark, and delving into our own darkness make up the majority of our entertainment these days. They permeate our culture and have become our default setting when interacting with one another. I enjoy a bit of wit and sarcasm myself, but I wish I layered it with more kindness and sincerity.

Leslie Knope reminds me that we can choose to be happy, rather than perpetually disillusioned. We can believe in each other. We can (gasp) have fun at work, and still aim for excellence. Above all, she reminds me that our ordinary lives in small towns and in small jobs within our small circles of influence can be lived out with a great passion.

I want to love my small life as much as Leslie loves hers. When I fire up the treadmill for the thousandth time in the morning, when I rouse the kids from their sleep and we go through the same motions and they are arguing/ “caring loudly at me”, when I sit down to write and all that comes to mind is exploring more about what it means to belong–I want to bring the best of myself. I want to leave the sarcasm and snark behind and live with kindness, openness, and true sincerity.

Until I started watching the show, I didn’t realize how much I need lessons in wholehearted living. Five years ago, when I lived my Swiss fantasy life and “normal” felt like a distant memory, I wasn’t ready to receive it. But today, now that my flag is no longer planted on European soil and it’s firmly rooted at the crossroads of Everyday and Ordinary, I find myself listening.

Learning to live with our whole hearts invested right where we are tells a surprisingly compelling story. How are you living wholeheartedly today?


  • Kelly Hausknecht Chripczuk

    You nailed the appeal of the show, Kimberly and connecting it with wholeheartedness makes it even better. Thanks for sharing and that picture is adorable.

    • Thanks, Kelly:) Always nice to have someone nod their head in agreement!

  • I am “LITERALLY” thrilled that are writing about Leslie Knope in your post today! {If you have not got to the season with Rob Lowe you won’t get the joke…but you will eventually and laugh hard}. I started to watch Park and Rec this winter too. We binge watch at night in bed on our mac. I don’t feel so weird now at finding myself being inspired by a fictional character on a television sitcom. Just last week, I had a real moment where I told myself “I need to be like Leslie”. The quick back story is that last year I started a small outreach ministry focused on early literacy, between our local church and the local public elementary. I was really proud of the accomplishment of bringing together, what is supposed to be opposite sides of the political fence, through my little “thing”. And like Leslie and her precious park, everyone thinks its nice, but don’t really care a whole hell of a lot, about it. I am now getting ready for the second summer of it running. And The Lord keeps reminding me that the majority of people need to be lead in this world. And they are much more likely to be lead by leaders who are positive and sincere and passionate; and just keep at it.
    w.w.l.d. {what would leslie do?}

    • wwld–brilliant. Leah, I think you’ve given me a whole new metric by which to measure everything;) I am literally thrilled you left this amazing comment. You are awesome. 😉

  • I feel ya, Kimberly! Our flag is rooted in England and yet I find myself daydreaming (even longing for) the Everyday and Ordinary life the states had to offer. Sometimes it can feel like I am chasing the wind as I navigate the crossroads of life and have to catch myself before I let my thoughts take me too far. Like you, I want to bloom where God has planted me…whether it is under a heaping pile of laundry or those random acts of kindness only God sees. I don’t want to wake up one day and find that I let all these years go by…jaded! As you say, we have a choices…our choices are our right; but I pray as I grow spiritually, I rely less on my own understanding and more on God’s choice for me. If I find myself walking down the road of disillusionment, I check it against the road of eternal significance – this often centers my thinking. Never saw the shows you mentioned, but love the post…thanks for the encouragement!

    • I can relate, Angele. My husband always told me to bloom where I’m planted, and after I fought the urge to strike him, I learned to take those words to heart. It’s still a struggle, regardless of where we live, but a worthy one!