Each year when I was growing up, I had a mental list of the top shows I wanted to watch. There were many from which to choose. HR Puffenstuff had crazy energy. Land of the Lost was cool because it had dinosaurs, and Scooby Doo had an interesting mystery each week. Yet, the one I kept coming back to was Mr. Rogers, which had none of those things. Mr. Rogers was a very nice man, who changed into a sweater each week and invited us into his neighborhood while speaking in a calm voice that bordered on a whisper.
However, Mr. Rogers did something none of the other shows came close to doing--he let you know that you mattered. And he meant it. Somehow you knew that if you walked into that neighborhood with the outdated puppets and the simple sets, Mr. Rogers would hang out with you just like he did through the TV. There were no adrenaline rush moments, or superhero fights, it was something deeper and far more significant. He was showing us what truly mattered in life, which was the people in it each day.
“Real strength has to do with helping others”. ~ Mr. Rogers.
When I was twelve, my parents made the announcement that we were not going to do a traditional Thanksgiving meal that year, but rather we were going to help give food to others. I wish I could say that I jumped to my feet and responded with a resounding, “What a wonderful idea, Mother and Father, because that is what Thanksgiving is truly about!” Rather, my internal response was thinking how weird my family was because while everyone else was eating turkey and watching football, I was going to be schlepping food to others. On that day, when we arrived at the shelter, we were handed blankets and asked to give them out because it was quite cold. Within a few minutes, I was standing in what was once a building. It had broken windows and holes in every wall. I walked over and handed a blanket to a man that was huddled on the floor. As the blanket went from my hand to his, he gently grabbed my arm and looked me right in the eye and said, “Thank-you.”
I have never forgotten the deep gratitude in his face because of something I had never even considered, which was having a blanket to possibly prevent me from freezing to death. The drive home was far different. As I looked out the window, I thought about the many things that I had in my life that this man didn’t, food whenever I wanted it, shelter, and people that cared about me.
The wisdom of Mr. Rogers can be so easily missed because of its simplicity and the quiet way he conveyed it. Yet, there was a sense of wonder and care for people that he lived each day.
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet, there is something about yourself that you leave at EVERY meeting of another person”. ~Mr. Rogers
I want to live life more like Mr. Rogers.
Here are a few of my Mr. Roger goals:
--To not use the word ‘thank-you’ as a segue to the next event in my life, but to genuinely communicate appreciation and value to the person that I am thanking.
--To bury my gripes in gratitude. Each time I find myself complaining about something, I want to think of five things that I am thankful for in my life.
--To NEVER be distracted by a phony measuring stick that creates a higher value for one person over another. Every person matters.
What are your Mr. Rogers goals?
Makes me wonder what OUR neighborhoods would be like if each of us brought more of Mr. Rogers into our daily lives.
So, do not be surprised if the next time you see me, the sweater I’m wearing is a cardigan with buttons on the bottom and I say, “Hi Neighbor”. I hope you find yourself smiling not just because it is corny, but because you can tell that I mean it.