Another busy day lies in front of me so my time on the porch this morning has been extremely brief. Add to that the fact that it felt like I opened the oven door instead of the front door when I went out this morning and you’ll understand why I didn’t stay too long. I can only imagine how my son will feel as he just returned from Alaska late last night. Talk about temperature shock! It reminds me of a September camping trip I made to Colorado some years back. When I broke camp to come home it was 21 degrees outside. When I got back to Texas eleven and a half hours later it was 105 degrees. That’s the way it goes in North Texas…
Anyway… Despite the busy day ahead, I made up for the lack of time on the porch by lingering over my news and reader feeds this morning. I’m sure I’ll feel guilty for ineffective time management later, but I needed to feed my news addiction as well as follow my favorite writers and their blogs. The day just wouldn’t be the same without it.
I came across one article that really caught my eye. It was a commentary on Mr. Rogers, the beloved children’s show host who passed in 2003. I never was a fan of his show when I was younger. I don’t ever remember watching public television until well after I had outgrown shows like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street. By 1968, when Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood debuted, I was more interested in hanging out with my friends and declaring my adolescent independence. My sister, who is six years younger, was far more familiar with them than I. As I grew older, my knowledge of Mr. Rogers came from the comedy skits on Saturday Night Live or the Fireside Theater. When I finally had kids of my own, they weren’t very interested in public television. They preferred Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and the like when they did watch television. Most of the time they were outside being boys.
So, I didn’t take Mr. Rogers seriously until my grandkids introduced him to me. What I found was a man who simply loved people, especially children. There was a simple message, even to adults. I was listening to NPR the other day and heard an interview with the director of a new documentary about Fred Rogers. One of the things parents and children alike forget about him, is that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. I didn’t know that he was ordained to specifically minister to children. He carried out his mission so well. I’m glad someone thought enough of him to produce a documentary. I can’t wait to see the movie.
I suppose it’s a bit ironic that I learned to appreciate a man who hosted a children’s show now that I’m in my fifties. Somehow, his simple message seems more real (and needed) than ever before. It reminds me of Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Maybe that’s why Jesus said we need to become like little children to enter the kingdom of God? The messages about trust, making good decisions, and trusting the adults who love us (and hence the One who loves us) seem even more important today than ever.
Richard Gunderman, in his commentary in The Conversation on June 8th of this year says, Rogers believed that the need to love and be loved was universal, and he sought to cultivate these capacities through every program, saying in a 2004 documentary hosted by actor Michael Keaton, one of his former stagehands, “You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And consequently, the greatest thing we can do is to help somebody know they’re loved and capable of loving.” I can’t think of a better calling, a better way of living. I want to be like Mr. Rogers when I grow up…
Gunderman goes on to point out:
“In preaching love, Rogers wasn’t just attending to the moral character of his youthful audience. He believed that he was also promoting their health. As he said in 1979, “My whole approach in broadcasting has always been, ‘You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions.’ Maybe I’m going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.”
Since Rogers’ death, evidence has mounted that he was on to something — namely, that love and kindness truly are healthful, and that people who express them regularly really do lead healthier lives. Simply put, people who are generous and volunteer their time for the benefit of others seem to be happier than those who don’t, and happy people tend to have fewer health complaints and live longer than those who are unhappy.”
I thought of all the people in my life. For the most part, they tend to have one thing in common: they tend to love others well. They seem to have this idea that the most important question one can ask in life is, ‘How can I help?’ They are loving, kind, and happy. Given the scientific discoveries about happiness and good health, most of them will be with me a while. At least, I hope so…
I sure would like to be a part of the neighborhood Mr. Rogers lived in. I guess I’ll just have to be a good neighbor here. I don’t own any of his trademark cardigan sweaters, but I can always ask, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”