Jim Henson Can Change Your Life :)

Jim Henson has made my life even more amazing.
Published on September 24, 2011 by Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D. in Here, There, and Everywhere // Psychology Today

Today (9/24) is the 75th anniversary of Jim Henson’s birthday. The impact of his work will continue to generations to come. Jim Henson changed my life in so many ways. Here are just a few of the legacies he left in my life.

1. He helped me grieve my friends’ deaths.

When my best friends Dave and Brian died suddenly in an accident, Jim Henson and the Muppets helped me grieve. Dave, Brian, and I were Muppet fans. We would spontaneously break into singing the Muppet Show theme “It’s time to play the music! It’s time to light the lights!” and randomly quote Muppets (“Al-eee-gaa-tor”! “I am not a shrimp, I am a king prawn!”). After Dave and Brian were gone, watching the Muppet show helped me focus on the good times we had together.

And in my moments of grief, I kept thinking back to how Jim Henson’s memorial service was a celebration of his life. I still remember the giant butterflies floating by during the service. And watching Frank Oz talking about Henson makes you laugh and cry. So cathartic. (And you can definitely hear Bert in Oz’s voice!)  It is a wonderful example of love and friendship.


2. He taught me about feelings.

Sesame Street inspired many budding counselors with its openness about feelings, something that just wasn’t commonly done in children’s television back then. Not only that, but Sesame Street even addressed those “icky” feelings, like “sad”.


3. He helped teach me how to read (and rhyme).

My mom said that as soon as I found out about Sesame Street, I “dropped Mr. Rogers like a hot potato”. My parents instilled in me a love of reading, and Sesame Street reinforced that love of language. So much so that at 5 years old I boycotted Kindergarten because I already knew how to make “alphabet trains”. I was bored. I was already reading books. Thus, I skipped ahead to the second grade. Yes, Bert and Ernie had a hand in getting me promoted.

“You take the Golden AN in the tan van, you give it to Dan, who takes it to Fran. That’s the plan!”

4. He reinforced the power of eternal optimism.

This is one of the mantras of my life:

“I believe that we form our own lives, that we create our own reality, and that everything works out for the best. I know I drive some people crazy with what seems to be ridiculous optimism, but it has always worked out for me.”

If someone says to me about a project or idea, “Geez, that’s kind of ambitious, isn’t it?” I answer, “Yes, isn’t it great?”

Thanks, Jim. :)

5. He taught me that staying calm is the sign of a good leader.

In the book It’s Not Easy Being Green: And Other Things to Consider(2005), there’s a quote from Bernie Brillstein that sums up Jim Henson’s leadership style – somethign all leaders should strive for.

“Jim inspired people to be better than they thought they could be. To be more creative, more daring, more outrageous, and ultimately more successful. And he did it all without raising his voice.”

I read a quote somewhere from an employee of Henson’s – the employee said that if Henson needed to talk to you about an issue (which was rare, because he almost always found a positive in everyone’s quirks and behaviors), he would meet with you alone and talk with you in a calm and respectful way. Such a simple concept, but so rarely used in the workplace. How much easier people’s lives would be if all bosses followed this concept!

6. He taught me learning via fun.

When you teach Law and Ethics of Counseling, throwing in some Muppets helps give life to potentially dry topics. Sam the Eagle teaches my students about the concept of law and morals.

Jim Henson taught millions of children (and now their children, and their children’s children!) learning through humor and fun. As John Cleese said, “Too many people confuse being serious with being solemn.” Henson understood that the key to learning was fun, joy, and enjoyment.

7. He taught me diversity.

“Abierto” and “cerrado” – permanently seared into my brain. I also learned that some people are Ernies, and some people are Berts. And both are lovable in their own ways. (I am an Ernie. Here’s something I put together on my blog about Ernie and his ADHD tendencies:)

Having ADHD is like Being Ernie in a World of Berts

8. He reinforced my love of work.

Jim Henson adored what he did for a living. So do I. Henson taught me that working at something you have a passion for isn’t really work – it’s a form of love.

“I don’t resent working long hours. I shouldn’t–I’m the one who set up my life this way. I love to work. It’s the thing that I get the most satisfaction out of–and probably what I do best. Not that I don’t enjoy days off. I love vacations and loafing around. But I think much of the world has the wrong idea of working. It’s one of the good things in life. The feeling of accomplishment is more real and satisfying than finishing a good meal–or looking at one’s accumulated wealth.”

When you have a passion and a drive for something, pursue it. If you are called to something, do it. No apologies needed.

Thank you, Jim, for being such a positive influence in my life, and in the lives of millions. You are missed, but I am so glad that your legacy will continue to live on for generations.


Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC


As a proud owner of “It’s Not Easy Being Green” – I highly recommend this book to anyone who craves inspiration and continued optimism. (Methinks I even gave a copy as a gift to someone once actually . . . hmm . . . if I didn’t then I should – ’cause it IS that fabulous.)

All these years later and his life’s work continues to thrive, to teach, and to inspire. Jim Henson: what an amazing man he must have been. :)

with passion & gratitude — jennifer


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