It hasn’t really been a beautiful day in the neighborhood for quite some time. As our country steps into a new chapter of its existential crisis, with long-simmering issues of racial injustice coming to the forefront, we really need someone to lead us through this time.
Someone like Mister Rogers.
Mister Rogers dealt with the toughest issues of his time. He wasn’t afraid to talk about difficult topics. He discussed death, civil rights, the Challenger explosion, and nuclear war. He came out of retirement after 9/11 to help explain the unexplainable to kids.
He told parents:
“The world is not always a kind place. That’s something all children learn for themselves, whether we want them to or not, but it’s something they really need our help to understand.”
Right now, this is also something I think most of us adults need help understanding as well. Images of unkindness, to say the least, are pervasive across our screens and our cities right now. Our country is angry, anxious, uncertain and grieving.
Mister Rogers helped children come to see their feelings – however difficult – as normal. He taught respect and compassion. He taught us to see the best in others. These are lessons we still need.
I wonder what Mister Rogers would make of current events right now. We certainly can’t shield our kids from it, and it is difficult to explain the nuances to them. He once said, “Parents are like shuttles on a loom. They join the threads of the past with threads of the future and leave their own bright patterns as they go.” It seems to me that this is what we are being called to do right now.
Many people are feeling helpless right now. In the midst of this helplessness, one particular piece of advice Mister Rogers gave keeps coming back to me. He said:
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
If we can teach our kids one thing, it’s to remember that every interaction we have has meaning. What we say to the cashier at the grocery store, to the man delivering the groceries, and the neighbor down the street matters. How we talk to each other matters.
But even with all he left behind, I still wish I could sit down with my kids this afternoon and watch a new episode of Mister Rogers.