Throughout the day, we walk by mirror after mirror so you would think that when asked if we see ourselves clearly, the answer would be yes. But it’s not. Yesterday, I was polishing a handheld mirror that belonged to my great grandmother Marjorie and as the silver became brighter, I thought about the times she would have gazed into it. Wondering the thoughts that went through her mind as she reflected on it, if she saw herself clearly.
If I’m honest, looking at myself in the mirror, truly seeing myself, isn’t at the top of my list. It’s task oriented. At my hair while I’m drying it, at my face so that I can apply makeup, or pluck the persistent whiskers that have joined me in midlife -what is even up with those?!?!?! But to truly ‘see’ myself? Generally, it’s a hard pass.
Yet, in each of our faces, there’s a story, a lifetime, that yearns to be told. And when we’re seen by another person, we often feel stripped naked, unsure of what to do in that moment. People who can reach in and see our struggles and who we are at our core are rare.
That’s where Mr. Rogers comes in. Yes, Fred Rogers.
In the last few years, there’s been a resurgence of interest in Mr. Rogers and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the most recent. With Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, it was set up for success. I spent the afternoon immersed in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood yesterday and walked out with the understanding that he was one of those rare people who could see into your soul.
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was one of the few shows I was allowed to watch as a child. That, Sesame Street, an occasional Romper Room…not the diet of television children have today. Because of that, there’s a warm fuzzy feeling, the memory of those days, which washes over me when I watch anything about him.
What solidly hit home for me was how he reached into people’s lives and met them where they were. He tackled many of the “unspoken” issues which continue confront children today. Divorce, racism, anger, sadness…he looked at real life, not a candy-coated version. His kind, gentle approach appealed to children then, and now. The emotions that arise within children, and adults for that matter, are often brushed aside. They don’t have the words to explain them and adults may not ask.
But Fred Rogers did. By speaking the unspeakable he normalized children’s feelings. They were seen by him. That’s the warm fuzzy, the memory of how he reached into my home and created the feeling I was seen. Thank you to Tom Hanks for bringing the feeling back.
What if we could do that for each other? See people, enter their space and assure them that their feelings, their emotions, are valid, and normal and worth exploring. We can, you know, but we must move in. Get closer, ask questions and be ok sitting in the uncomfortable space that comes next. He wasn’t using ninja mind tricks, he simply asked questions…and waited. We’re so quick to rush and fill in the quiet space we don’t let the question linger. People are seen when we wait. Like children, it takes us a hot second to identify what’s going on inside us and name it.
Who needs you to be the one who sees them today? Are you willing to ask questions and wait…letting the answer come when it’s ready? In those moments you’ll see another authentically, the true self that wants to be seen, to be known…to be reassured that their feelings are valid. Choose to be that person. Get closer…what you’ll see will be beautiful.