After the Manchester attacks, like after so many of the other tragic incidents of domestic and international terrorism lately, the Mr. Rogers quote about looking for the helpers started circulating across social media.
Not long after, this tweetstorm surfaced from journalist and author Anthony Breznican about meeting Fred Rogers during a particularly sad time in his life. You should read the entire tweetstorm here, but grab some Kleenex first.
Breznican’s description of finding Mr. Rogers’ show during that time also aptly describes his own tweetstorm — a “cool hand on a hot head.”
I felt that same feeling when another friend tweeted out a link to Mr. Rogers’ 1969 testimony in front of Congress to ask for the authorization of money for PBS.
After watching that testimony, that same friend sent me this story about Mr. Rogers. I read it and then I started watching all the old songs on YouTube. I don’t know about you, but there is so much going on in the world right now that as I started re-watching these, I felt so homesick for my old neighbor, Mr. Rogers.
The videos take me back to the early 80s, sitting crosslegged in front of the television, dressed in pigtails and a yellow terrycloth jumper. My pink Kangaroo shoes had velcro straps and a quarter was tucked in the pocket in case I got lost and needed to call my mom.
Maybe watching these take you back, too?
It strikes me that what was so amazing about Mr. Rogers is that we all really were his neighbors. He saw the humanity in every person and celebrated everyone’s dignity. And he did so consistently and without fail. When the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, the speech he gave was not about himself and how great he was, but again, about an aspect of our shared humanity.
You’re probably now thinking about all the people who helped make you who you are today. As he points out, none of us achieve anything alone.
I think that’s part of what we’ve lost as a community. We’ve forgotten we are all neighbors. And by we, I don’t mean just Republicans or just Democrats. I mean all of us. We’ve forgotten our shared values and our shared humanity. Everything becomes a brother-sister fight of “they did it too” or “they started it.”
Things and people have become disposable. We’re missing decency. We’ve become mean to each other. We want to fill our days with more: more money, more things, more mindless activity. Perhaps because the world is moving so fast that it feels scary sometimes and we’d like to believe that we are in control. (Spoiler: We are not.)
We’ve also forgotten that part of being a good neighbor is being a good helper. Caring for each other. Stopping to see how others are feeling and letting them know we care about them. Being polite and courteous to each other, as well as loving without fail. We have also forgotten that part of being neighborly is giving people grace –especially, and most importantly, when they least deserve it.
But man, it is so hard! How did Mr. Rogers do this for 50 years?! Sometimes I struggle to keep my snark under control for an hour.
I got to thinking today that this seems like a time when we could use his wisdom more than ever. I wonder what he would say… in this time… with everything going on in the world. And then, after watching video of his goodbye, I realize he’s already said it.
The values and lessons of his neighborhood, after all, are timeless.