What Would Mr. Rogers Do?
The other day I watched a clip my husband posted on Facebook of Mr. Rogers. You remember him walking in the door, changing his shoes, and choosing a sweater while singing about his beautiful neighborhood. You remember the feeling you had when he told you it was “you he liked.” You remember how you felt understood, treasured, and loved right there on the other side of that TV. You were “television neighbors” and he thought you were special. Every weekday we tuned in without fail and then we ran outside to play.
While living at Seminary, I had a neighbor who knew Mr. Rogers personally. The week he died we stood outside and cried while our boys built forts in the woods. They knew him too. I exposed all of them to Trolley, Daniel Tiger, and Mr. Mcfeely as preschoolers. It now seems a little awkward and feels a bit strange to have a TV character named Mr. McFeely. But that is the sadness of the time we now live in. Mr. Rogers made things simple back then.
When he sang “Are you Brave?” I sure thought I was. When I heard “I’m proud of you” I believed he was, and when he explained I could “never go down the drain” I felt relieved. I remember sitting beside the tub with my frightened little boy singing and explaining how he too was too big to slip down the drain.
The thing about Fred Rogers was not his desire to make high quality television. It wasn’t just the special understanding of children that he most certainly had. It wasn’t his unique sweaters made by his mother or the way he explained how things were made on Picture,Picture. It was his heart. His seminary degree did not transfer to a life of preaching loudly in pulpits but instead he spoke softly to the smallest and most humble population, the children.
My friend told me that Fred Rogers would see her, in their real life neighborhood, and he was exactly the same as on TV. He was humble and asked about her and her family. He spoke into her face and valued her. He truly loved her. He loved people.
How I long to love people like this. It’s frightening isn’t it? For me, loving a child is easier than loving a “grown up.” Children are meek, innocent, and usually friendly. Grown ups are hard to love aren't we? We are often bitter, cynical, afraid, and lonely. How do we scratch that surface and get to the heart of the adult? May I suggest we just do it like Fred Rodgers? He treated people the same. Children to him were not a bother or of less importance than adults. They were humans— equal, just smaller. I find that those who value children, value people.
We are all afraid. We lose humility and trust as we grow. We become harder and build protective shells around ourselves. We judge. We condemn. We hide. Fred says, “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self.” I am learning this. There is purpose in doing this. “Are we Brave?”
I want to be a “Mrs. Rogers.” I want to love the world through eyes that desire to show Christ with my actions and not just with words. Mr. Rogers never said anything about God loving me or how special I was to God. He never shared Bible verses or preached the gospel on TV. Yet, he did not have to. He reflected those attributes of Christ to me when he treasured a child’s heart and saw the value and worth in us as people. Saint Francis of Assisi said it this way, “Preach the gospel everyday and only if you have to….use words.”
In my home I want to draw my children to the Savior by the way I value them and hear them. I want them to feel safe and trust me. I want them to know that something greater than my self allows me to love them like this. I want to reflect Christ to them in the way my words are spoken. Mr. Rogers was a quiet, soft spoken man. I am loud, not usually soft spoken. I don’t have to imitate anyone but Christ. This love just has to come from the heart. And I want to do this same thing with those who are different than I.
I want to greet the person that I feel is the least like me with the same care Mr. R projected through that TV screen. Why? Because we are all broken. My brokeness just looks different from that of another. I pray to be less judgemental of the way someones hurt is expressed and more like Fred Rogers. Just value the image of God in them. Acknowledge that we are all made in his image(Genesis 1:27). And when the image of Him, in me, touches the same image in another, spiritual connections are made. This is how we reach people. This is how we spread the gospel.
"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
(1 Corinthians 13 ESV)
“How sad it is that we give up on people that are just like us." —Fred Rogers
“Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award—and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence."
And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, "I'll watch the time." There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds—and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly "May God be with you," to all his vanquished children.” (Wikipedia)
Here is a clip of Mr.Rogers and Joan Rivers. Watch as he treats her with respect and such care that she becomes speechless.
Share this program with your little ones. It never gets old or outdated. Just like love.