Lessons from Mr. Rogers

Mr. RogersI’m late to the game. I know the Mr. Roger Neighborhood documentary/movie came out months ago, but it came to my home screen the other night. I can remember watching Mr. Rogers when I was little as it was one of 2 shows my mom approved me to watch. I will admit to sneaking in a little Wonderful World of Disney and their weekly movie on my little 13 inch black and white TV in my room. But on a more regular basis, Sesame Street, followed by Mr. Rogers.

Here’s the truth. I can remember watching Mr. Rogers and thinking, “move…it…along.” Seriously. Was I 5? 6? Not sure, but not much older and I can remember it seeming slow to me. Get to Make Believe Land already! These were the early years of Mr. Rogers, it aired the first time when I was a year old. But I don’t think it ever lost that pace.

Looking back, I wonder if my little self was either missing, or didn’t want to hear the message he was sharing. I’ve read, and now watched in the movie, about the messages he shared with children. It seems to me that his greatest desire was to listen to children and to normalize what was going on in the world around them. He tackled racism, death, divorce, fear, not being like other people…topics that as grown adults we shy away from, not to mention the multitude of others that he talked to kids about day after day, week after week.

And I wonder why that is? Why is it so difficult to have conversations about certain topics? Particularly with children. Imagine as a child feeling like you’re not like other kids, or that kids don’t like you, or make fun of you. I think that’s every child’s experience to some degree or another. I actually think it’s many adult’s experience as well. But instead of talking about it, we try and make it go away. We try and fix it. We dismiss it. With adults, we tell them to get over it, or to not worry about what others think.

But that doesn’t make the feelings go away. In my mind, what assuages feelings is acknowledging them. Normalizing them. Conversations that help people see that they are not alone. That someone else has felt the way they do.

I have coffee every Saturday morning with a girlfriend. We’re both early risers and are at our local Starbucks by about 6 a.m. We’re the same age and met a couple years ago when I was intent on meeting other women and making friends. It all started over a shared love of Athleta workout pants. She had a brightly colored pair and I commented. The rest is history. And yes, there was coffee that day.

One of the aspects I love the most about those mornings is that we share experiences and it’s confirmation that we’re not alone. We’ve had similar experiences and if one is wrestling with something, the other has probably been there and normalizes it. Having people in your life who can relate to what you’re going through is critically important. I believe for both men and women, though I can only talk about my experience as a woman.

It’s a lie that we have to go through life on our own. And, honestly, there are some areas where we need to talk to other women (or men as the case may be). I think my husband is thankful I have my coffee talks, I work through a lot of the craziness in my head over a Venti. Plain coffee for me, you didn’t ask, but I’m offering…nothing fancy.

Back to Mr. Rogers, that’s who he was for children. Every day. He’d tackle topics that adults are often hesitant to talk about with kids in a gentle way. He made them normal. He used Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday XIII, Lady Elaine, and others on the show to talk through real issues children were facing. And he did it all while acknowledging kids for who they were and loving on them. That’s what we all want, to be known and loved.

If you haven’t watched this movie, it’s worth it. And the brave step I’d encourage you to take today? Love each other. Just as Mr. Rogers did, just as God calls us to do. It doesn’t have to be complicated, or over intellectualized. Just…love…each…other.

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