Mr Rogers is everything I wish I could be. He is the wind beneath my wings, my #parentinggoals and my personal hero. I love him in a non ironic, non hipster sort of way. I adore him the way sports people adore their sports idols. He’s my Micky Ruth.
I remember where I was when I heard he had passed. I was in science class my junior(ish) year of college. My science professor & I had worked out a nice mutual ignoring of each other, until she informed the class that he had died. I was immediately shook. My professor and I made rare eye contact and even rarer conversation about how sad we were.
If you ever get a chance to go on a deep dive of Mr. Rogers you will not be disappointed. Start with the book; “I’m Proud Of You” by Tim Madigan, it’s about a guy (Tim) going through a mid life crisis and he forms an unlikely friendship with Mr. Rogers. During his mid life crisis he realizes that he has never heard his father say “I’m proud of you.” and that has a lasting effect on his life. So he asks Mr. Rogers if he’s proud of him and Mr. Rogers tells him he’s very proud of him and then signs every letter they write to each other with I.P.O.Y. (I’m proud of you.). It’s such a beautiful story. Tim also fully realizes the weirdness of a grown man asking another grown man to say they are proud of them but it so profoundly effected his life that it didn’t matter.
Honestly, I doubt Mr. Rogers ever thought about the weirdness. He just saw a need, did something wonderful and didn’t care if it was normal. He wasn’t normal. He was better then normal. He was helpful and kind and that’s all that mattered to him.
Also, this book does have a bit of a religious slant to it. As did Mr. Rogers. Truthfully, I don’t have a religious belief system. I don’t have an understanding of Universal Intelligence, higher power, a grasp of heaven or hell. Anything existential is above my pay grade. Not having a fully formed answer to the why and the how of the universe can sometimes be a lonely place. Particularly lately when it feel like the world is on fire and the death eaters are winning. When I start to feel pretty bummed about everything I remember Mr. Rogers. He existed. He was good and kind and wanted to help. And there are so many people like him. One of Mr. Rogers most famous quote talks about this need to remember the good: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping. To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
The Dalai Lama states, “Our prime purpose in life is to help others, And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” For me, Mr. Rogers is the best example of a helper. He gave his life to make children feel connected, less scared, and wanted them to know that he loved them just the way they are.
So as I worry for our children’s generation who seem to have so much more turmoil and uncertainty, I am comforted that Mr. Roger’s legacy continues. Our sweet children don’t get him physically but they will damn sure get his messages through the lives he’s so deeply & profouundly touched.
So thank you, Mr. Rogers and I know where ever you are you are being the very best neighbor.