Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fred Rogers: Teaching me to be a neighbor

TV was a carefully rationed treat when I was growing up. But an exception was made for Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, which I could watch every day. What parent wouldn't want their child learning about kindness, gentleness, tolerance? What other TV persona could soothe fears ranging from the shower drain sucking me into it to the scariness of what to do when I got angry? There are few television shows that I have continued watching from childhood to present day, but this is one of them. The more I learn about Fred Rogers, the more I respect him and hope that my life can reflect his spirit; I hope that the young people in my life can see some of the facets of Rogers' life and values in my interactions. Perhaps most importantly, I hope that it's clear what I believe in and that I clearly reflect my beliefs and values in the way I live. From what I understand about Fred Rogers, he lived what he taught.

I love this video by John Green (also linked under the photo) that showcases Rogers because it's told with Green's typical humor, but I also learned even more about the man on the TV who has been such an influence. I learned, for example, that Fred Rogers:
  • Religiously practiced self-care and the discipline of slowing down: insisting that the stoplight featured in the opening sequence always be yellow as a reminder to slow down, playing piano and swimming when he felt overwhelmed and praying for hours each morning
  • Showed genuine interest in the journalists and taxi drivers who worked with him, listening to their life stories, and following up with them later; he also responded to every letter from fans
  • Was known for being authentically himself both on and off the show, modeling kindness, and standing firm for causes he believed were important
I don't want to put Mr. Rogers on a pedestal; I know he was human, and I also know he wouldn't like being on a pedestal anyway. But I do want to recognize the power of discerning what's really important to us--and then learning how to faithfully incorporate the things that we hold are core and sacred into our lives. For me, Fred Rogers was one such person who managed to model authenticity and both knowing and living core values. 

Photo by KUHT [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Who inspires you? What gives you life and energy and make your soul dance? And perhaps equally importantly, how can you reflect your values and the best of your core identity to those in your  neighborhood?


Melissa said...

I came across this quote by Fred Rogers on John Green's tumblr recently:

“I’m just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us, and I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger: I like you just the way you are. And once more, I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe, and help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods. It’s such a good feeling to know we’re lifelong friends."

It brought tears to my eyes as a mother to know that the same things he taught me were being passed down to my children, and that Mr. Rogers still loved me. I know it's a little childish, but it is always great to be told that you are liked just the way you are, especially by someone who has so much integrity, sincerity, and love.

Meg said...

I really have been singing "It's Such a Good Feeling" all week since reading some Mr. Rogers stuff about how to talk to your kids about scary things. He was just so lovely and sincere and joyous, and I miss him. Love this post.