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Underwriter Message

Elmo takes a turn as a therapist after asking, 'How is everybody doing?'

<strong>Have a seat on my couch: </strong>When the beloved children's character Elmo asked how people how they were doing, the responses came from far beyond Sesame Street.
Craig Barritt
/
Getty Images for Headspace
Have a seat on my couch: When the beloved children's character Elmo asked how people how they were doing, the responses came from far beyond Sesame Street.

At first glance, it might have looked like a run-of-the-mill social media check-in: "How is everybody doing?"

But the message came from Elmo — the furry red friend to kids, Muppets and anyone else. And Elmo is known, on Sesame Street and beyond, for his capacity to care.

So the responses flooded in on X and Instagram, Threads and Facebook; and conversations sparked on Reddit and elsewhere. People unburdened themselves, and Elmo took it all in. On X alone, Elmo's question received 180 million views by midday Wednesday ET.

Responses to Elmo on Friday and Monday differ wildly

One of Elmo's earliest check-in messages was posted on Threads, where Elmo asked last Friday how people were doing.

"Just on my way to buy some BALSAMIC VINIGUH," came one popular reply — to which Elmo responded, "Elmo hopes it's yummy!"

"I'm doing ok! Hope you are too!" said another commenter, getting the reply, "Elmo loves you!"

Other notes wished everyone a happy Friday. But then the weekend was over. And when Elmo echoed his question on X and other platforms on Monday, things took a turn.

"Not well Elmo they done raised rent and everything at this point I'm coming to live with u on sesame Street," Babygirl Whroway told Elmo on Facebook.

"Elmo would love that! #neighbors!" the Muppet responded.

"Elmo I'm having a rough time. Love you though," weatherwoman1213 said on Instagram.

"Elmo hopes you doing okay. Elmo loves you today and every day," he replied.

On X, people aired litanies of personal and relationship problems and more general angst. They spoke about being tired, broke and unsure how to improve things, and feeling disconnected from others.

As a user named Becky said of the massive response, people were "trauma dumping so hard on elmo the official sesame street account had to tweet out mental health resources," adding, "god help us."

A recurring theme also popped up, as adults remarked on how affirming it was to connect with Elmo and his friends.

"All the love to the Sesame Street team for still taking care of all us grown children," a commenter wrote on Instagram. "We may be chronologically outside the demographic, but we really never left the Street. Thank you."

President Biden weighed in late Tuesday, stating, "Our friend Elmo is right: We have to be there for each other, offer our help to a neighbor in need, and above all else, ask for help when we need it."

Is Elmo a gifted therapist?

In his responses this week — and let's be honest, in most moments since he was introduced in the 1980s — Elmo has shown that he exemplifies three of the most important attributes of a therapist, as defined by the influential 20th-century psychologist Carl Rogers, the driving force behind "person-centered" therapy.

Rogers' list starts with congruence, meaning authenticity and genuineness — being real. The other two core qualities for a therapist, he said, are acceptance that comes from unconditional positive regard, and empathy that comes from understanding another person.

While Elmo hasn't been able to reply to every message on his accounts, his responses are winning praise. Consider his answer to a student on Instagram who told him this week, "I don't wanna go to class Elmo, I need words of encouragement."

"You can do it! Try to make a new friend today!" Elmo told the student. "That will make class extra fun and tomorrow you will be extra excited to see them!"

To that, another user replied, "bro that's actually such a good advice lol."

In many cases, commenters on the replies showed people sharing positive messages and practical advice with each other, encouraging people who are struggling to keep sharing, and working to make things better.

They are words we all need to say and messages we need to hear. And in one short message, Elmo reminded us to make time for each other, and listen.

"Wow! Elmo is glad he asked!" Elmo said on Tuesday, as responses to his question continued to pour in. "Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you.❤ #EmotionalWellBeing."

Leveraging the interest in Elmo's tweet to posting a reply with emotional well-being resources "is exactly what Sesame Workshop was created to do," said Aaron Bisman, the organization's vice president of audience development, in a statement.

"As the grown-ups 'helping' Elmo and all Sesame Street friends with their social media accounts, our social media team is cognizant of the relationship that audiences have developed with the characters over the last 54 years," he said.

Elmo has been there too

A Muppet's life might seem like an eternally happy mix of friends, music and community spirit, but Elmo has struggled. His honesty about dealing with challenges is part of what makes him so relatable to young kids, who share his excitement about the novelties of life and his frustration when things don't go his way.

Consider Elmo's rocky relationship with Rocco, his friend Zoe's famous (and in some quarters, infamous) pet rock. With his intense feelings, Elmo hasn't always shown patience in navigating his friend's attachment to an inanimate object. Video of a 2004 clash between the friends over a cookie reserved for Rocco went viral in recent years; their complex dynamic even provoked a Lacanian psychoanalysis.

"Has anybody ever seen a rock eat a cookie? Elmo is just curious," Elmo tweeted in 2022, uncorking another front in the dispute. And once again, the red rascal's message sounded far beyond Sesame Street's brownstones.

"Yes, my friend," actor Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) replied. "This Rock devours cookies. All kinds of cookies." He added, "Tell Cookie Monster to move it over, cuz I'm coming to Sesame Street to kick ass and eat cookies."

For the record, that didn't sit well with Cookie Monster, who isn't one for letting things go — especially if the things in question are cookies. The blue cookie enthusiast eagerly accepted The Rock's challenge.

As Elmo caused a new sensation by asking how people are doing, other famous Sesame Street residents also chimed in. Cookie Monster made a particularly solid offer: "Me here to talk it out whenever you want. Me will also supply cookies."

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call, text or chat with the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988, or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.