Children, Christianity, Communication, Community, Emotional Health, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grace, Gratitude, Growing Up, Hope, Listening, Love, Movies, Neighbors, Patience, Prayer, Recovery, Simplicity, Spirituality, Texas, Uncategorized, Writing

An absolute must see!

Last week’s rain was a welcome guest during the hot Texas summer. Unfortunately, an obnoxious high-pressure system chased away the unstable air that brought lower temperatures and cooling rains. Thus, a week of triple digit temperatures and heat advisories lie ahead. It was a noticeable difference on the porch this morning, but the coffee and conversation with my beautiful wife made up for any discomfort due to the temperature I may have felt. I wish likewise for all of you…

It’s been a great weekend here in Fort Worth. I’ve been so busy I haven’t had much ‘desk-time’. Margaret had a procedure done on her back on Friday morning and the results have been good so far. She felt enough relief to get out and about Friday night and hasn’t paid dearly for the experience as usual. We’re cautiously optimistic…

Friday night, our son Paul came over and we went to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the documentary about Fred Rogers and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I wrote about him recently, so I hope this isn’t too redundant. We’d been looking forward to seeing it since its release. I don’t pretend to be a movie critic. I know what I like when I see it. I don’t look for entertainment as much as I look for an emotional connection. That’s what good stories do. They reach somewhere inside and connect deep inside. If that appeals to you then this is a “must see’ film. Be prepared to be touched…

I was a latecomer to the whole Mr. Rogers thing. The Public Broadcasting System, of which I later became a huge fan, didn’t start broadcasting until 1969. I was in junior high school by then, but my sister, who is six years younger, would be watching Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I was too old for such nonsense and just got ticked-off that she got to control the TV programming…

The only thing I knew of Mr. Rogers were the parodies of Eddie Murphy and The Firesign Theater. Even Mr. Rogers himself thought some of them were funny so long as they weren’t mean-spirited. It wasn’t until I became a parent that I began to take Mr. Rogers seriously. The simple message of kindness, of being special, and of being loved just as you are resonated with me. I wanted my own children to hear and internalize his message. Now that I’ve been down the road a bit, I find myself wishing that everyone, including myself, could feel that message deep inside.

I spent yesterday evening with a close friend who is going through a major struggle right now. I won’t bore you with the details, and it’s a private affair. What I can share with you is how I felt. It’s said that men are ‘fixers’ by nature (although I’ve known a great many women who have tried and tried to ‘fix’ me in the past… believe me, I needed fixing…). I can get with that. As I listened to his struggles and frustration with where he’s at, I wanted desperately to find the ‘right’ words that would miraculously make things better for him. I thought about the film and one of the children’s questions to Mr. Rogers, “What do you do with mad?” I still don’t have a good answer. The harder I tried to find the words, the more powerless I felt. I can’t take away his pain, his frustration, or his anger, but I can be present and walk through it with him. Sitting with him in my truck, I remembered a part of the movie I saw Friday. Sometimes we just need to be silent. Sometimes there are no words. Sometimes we just need to be there and ease the burden for one another.

We sat there in silence for a while. Finally, we said our goodbyes and we went our separate ways. I don’t know if he felt any better, but I know he felt a little more loved than he did when we first started talking, and when I talked to him later in the evening, he was going to bed so he could get up and do it again tomorrow. I said a prayer for my friend. Tomorrow’s another day…

I guess that was my take away from the movie. Be kind. Be loving. Be there and don’t try and fill the space between those you love with the constant buzz of words. It’s okay to feel your feelings, to walk through them and walk through them together. Above all, you’re loved and special just as you are. A pretty good message if you ask me, for adults as well as children.

There was a book by Robert Fulghum called, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, that was popular many years ago. It was a reminder that all the life skills I would ever need I learned when I was very young. I was reminded again as I watched “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”. It saddened me to reflect on how much I’ve lost since childhood. I came to worry about what others thought of me early in life and stifles the child I was. The loss of innocence sounds so cliché but it’s true. Somewhere along the line I, like most of us, traded in that childlike wonder and innocent spirit for worry, self-importance, and all that comes with being grown-ups. I used to accuse my dad of entering his second childhood when I’d see him do childlike and silly stuff, especially with his grandkids. Now I wish I was like him…

Maybe I’m entering my second childhood? (Margaret says I am. She asks me all the time if my voice is going to change when I reach puberty.) I hope I’m more okay with being a kid than I was all those years ago. Back then it was so important to ‘keep up appearances’. One of the blessings of getting older is that you just don’t care what other people think as much. Such is the wisdom of a child. I find that I take things far less seriously and much more wondrously than I did in the past. I don’t feel a need to ‘fix’ someone else, but I can be present to walk alongside them today. Jesus said that to enter the kingdom of heaven, you must become as a child. I think you also should become a lot like Mr. Rodgers…

One of the most striking things to me about Fred Rogers is that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister. He may very well have been one of the first televangelists. He was ordained for the television ministry. Yet, he never preached a word (or asked for a “donation in order to receive God’s favor….”). He lived it instead. Talk about attracting others rather than promoting one’s self. No wonder kids flocked to him just like the poor and marginalized did to Jesus.

To paraphrase Fred Rogers, love is at the root of everything, or the lack thereof. I’ve seen what happens on both ends of the spectrum. All I need to do is read my newsfeed and the lack of love is apparent. So, I strive for the former rather than the latter. The Teacher I follow says that if I just love God with all my heart, mind, spirit and then love everyone else like I do myself, I can’t go wrong.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but there’s a line in the movie that left me with incredible hope. One of Fred Rogers’ friends said that many people think that Mr. Rogers was one of a kind, maybe like a fluke I guess. His opinion filled me with hope and gratitude when he reminded us all that there are a” lot of people out there just like Fred Rogers”. Yes, there are. I know some of them and for that, I’m so grateful.

If no one has told you today, please remember you’re loved – just the way you are. Pretty good words to live by. Thanks Mr. Rogers…


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