Today children have their choice of just about anything on TV. There are channels on cable that play cartoons 24 hours day now! This was not the case when I was growing up. TV stations went off the air at midnight or so concluding their “broadcast day”, so the best you could do to get a bunch of cartoons in one long stretch was on Saturday mornings. This blog could easily be about cartoons (as a matter of fact, that sounds like a good idea for a future blog), but it is not.
50 years ago this week, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood aired for the first time. February 19, 1968 he welcomed his neighbors to his neighborhood asking “Would you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?” I grew up with Mr. Rogers and I came to know him as friend who cared. Some former family members thought he was creepy, but I never felt that way. I always thought he was nice and friendly. I always felt that he just wanted to hang out and show you new things and offer advice.
He once said, “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” Isn’t that the truth?! I know so many people today who are facing the termination of their positions at work, are going through a divorce, and have dealt with the death of a family member. Whether you are at the beginning of a new job, or beginning of a new relationship, or the beginning of a life adjusting to new circumstances – this quote is powerful.
Another time he said, “Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered…just one kind word to another person.” Kindness is something that is a rare find these days. We are living in a world where hatred, hurt, sadness, violence, and cruelty run freely. How hard is it to just be kind to one another? A friendly smile in passing someone on the street, holding the door open for someone who is walking in a store behind you, offering spare change to that person who is a few cents short at the register, or just paying it forward by doing a good deed can all be life changing. The world is a nasty place – but you can be different and bring about a change simply by being kind.
He used to sing a song on his show: “It’s you I like”. He used to close the show by reminding us “You make each day a special day. You know how, by just your being you. There’s only one person in this whole world like you. And people can like you exactly as you are.” I tell my sons often that I am glad that they are not like everyone else. I tell them how awesome it is there is no one else in the world like them – “there is only one you” – and YOU are important!
One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Rogers is this: “If you could only sense how important you are to those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” Stop and think on that for a minute. Now stop and think about how this has happened to you by a person you met. Was it a teacher went the extra mile and helped you understand algebra? Was it a baseball or football coach who showed you that all the hard work and practice really truly does make you a better player? Was it your grandfather who told you “Worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”?
Now stop and think about the impact YOU make on the world. Think about how you being in someone’s life changed them in some small way. I my many years on the radio, you never know what someone remembers about your show. I could be out at a station appearance and someone would come up and say “Thanks for taking the time to salute the veterans today” or “Your story about your son sitting in the toilet reminded me of something my son did”. Sometimes it is the little things you can do that make a difference. To you, it may seem like a small thing, but to someone else, it is HUGE.
Mr. Rogers passed away in 2003, but his lessons are still as powerful today, as they were then. I am thankful to have been one of his “neighbors”. I am thankful that he left us with some powerful messages that can still be applied to our lives today. Be you and be kind. Be important to someone. Oh, and one more thing:
“As different as we are from one another, as unique as each one of us is, we are much more the same than we are different. That may be the most essential message of all, as we help our children grow toward being caring, compassionate, and charitable adults.” – Fred Rogers.