A Dose of Mr. Rogers

My children grew up with Mr. Rogers and I’m grateful to him for so many things. Not only did he influence my two children, his manner influenced me – and my parenting. I can honestly say I was a better parent because of him. I grew up in a home where children didn’t speak unless spoken to – I know, that gives away my age. Watching Mr. Rogers with my children gave me permission to put names to my feelings. How freeing that was!

A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting my daughter and her family. My son-in-law and grandson were in the basement watching Monday night football and Julie and I decided to watch the documentary on Mr. Rogers – we had both missed it in the theatres. We laughed some, but mostly we cried with the memories of Mr. Rogers’ philosophy and gentleness. And, at his fearless, compassionate way of addressing hard issues that can scare us all. Like death and disabilities and divorce.

At one point during the evening, my grandson wandered through the living room and said, “Are you two crying?”  He brought us the box of tissues and moved on. I wish he’d stayed. He could use a dose of Mr. Rogers – as we all could.

Each episode began with the song “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. The neighborhood Mr. Rogers invited us to was a safe place where we could be ourselves. “I Like You As You Are” – another song. The neighborhood was a place to ask hard questions. A place where someone listened and acknowledged our feelings. It was a place you could admit you were angry or sad or afraid. It was place of dignity because your feelings were respected.

Other children’s programming was all about bonking one another on the head or falling off cliffs or jumping off buildings and miraculously flying. Those programs were the precursor of today’s action movies and games the kids all play on their devices – and I have to admit, not my cup of tea.

But then, I also have to admit to being of a generation that is slowly disappearing. It makes me wonder where the next Mr. Rogers will come from. Who will listen to us when we’re sad and afraid. Who will be silent and wait for us to say more? Mr. Rogers said, “Silence is delight – one of the greatest gifts.” When was the last time you were silent during a conversation – and aware of the other person’s feelings? Sadness, or anger, or fear?

I remember the episode where he asked how long a minute was – and then turned over an egg timer and just sat there while it ran out. It felt interminable. Now, silence can be the best part of a conversation. Comfortable silence. Absorbing what was just said, what was meant, what the other person is feeling, what I’m feeling. Definitely a gift. Silence ranks right up there for me with dignity, respect and compassion.

The show wasn’t all heavy – there was also delight and there were lots of happy times. In Mr. Roger’s words, “Make goodness attractive.” There is lots of room for nice people. Have fun. Let the child in you out. Fly a kite, run around, relish your energy.

Mr. Rogers was absolutely right when he said that it all comes down to love. Love of humankind.  And, guess what? That’s the definition of philanthropy. Love of humankind. Just think about it. Please. And live it in your own way. With dignity, respect and compassion.

Donors – Give because it feels right to you.

Nonprofits – You give your special gifts all the time to your communities – delight in that!

Community – Could the new Mr. Rogers live right here among us?  In Gunnison County? Let’s all take a crack at more compassion, respect and dignity.

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