The Gift

Wisdom from The World According to Mr. Rogers: Important Things to Remember

Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

I LOVED Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood when I was a little girl.  LOVED.  LOVED.  LOVED.  Specifically, the mini-scenes acted out with puppets in the land of Make-Believe.  I completely adored these characters: King Friday XIII, Henrietta Pussycat, and Daniel Striped Tiger were my favorites.  I tolerated the educational lessons before and after just to get to where Trolley would transport us to Make-Believe.  The concept of building a set and writing the story and acting out the characters spoke to me.  I have been fascinated with live theater ever since and any kind of story-telling.  And everyone was so real!  King Friday would be selfish.  Daniel Tiger would get his feelings hurt.  Henrietta Pussycat would stand up for something she believed in.  They would fight through the crisis and resolve it.  As a lonely and introspective only child, I learned a lot about how to be a person, a friend, a part of a community.

Mr. Rogers reminded me of my father.  The good parts of my father.  They shared the same first name.  They wore cardigans.  They spoke deliberately.  They had a subtle sense of humor.  They approached learning scientifically:  breaking down a subject, asking questions, and explaining all the nuances.  But there were important differences.  Mr. Rogers didn’t lecture ad infinitum.  He seemed to understand and to be interested in me, in us, in his audience.  It was a safe place.

As the show and I grew up, I found the expanding neighborhood of make-believe characters to be overkill.  I resented the newcomers intruding on my cherished core group.  New and bigger was not better.  I wanted to hang on to the original small group.  I stopped watching – leaving the neighborhood. 

Flash forward 40+ years and I am in the car on a road trip with my family listening to Jason Mraz, Love is a Four Letter Word, and reading through the “album notes” on the CD.  I think I love Jason Mraz about as much as I love Mr. Rogers.  He bares his soul with complete joy.   May I get to such a place of honesty and love; creativity and connection.  Jason quotes Mr. Rogers:  “Understanding love is one of the hardest things in the world.”  I whoop with pleasure.  I am not the only one who finds Mr. Rogers to be a role model, a philosophical mentor.  And I share delightedly with my family the connection between me and Jason (my husband is jealous) and the name of the book from which the quote is published, The World According to Mr. Rogers.

We return home and life returns to its relentless pace.  In the middle of its relentless pace, I turned 50.  It was a wonderfully ordinary special day where I felt loved, felt appreciative of my friends and family and felt proud of where I am today.  And then my daughter gave me my birthday gift.  My very own copy of The World According to Mr. Rogers.  WOW.  I was completely surprised and delighted and in awe of her thoughtfulness.  The best gift is one that shows the recipient that the gift-giver knows you and loves you – soul to soul.  Namaste, beautiful girl.  You understand love.

 From the point of view of a mother to her beloved daughter:

I Won’t Give Up

By Jason Mraz

When I look into your eyes

It’s like watching the night sky

Or a beautiful sunrise

There’s so much they hold

And just like them old stars

I see that you’ve come so far

To be right where you are

How old is your soul?

I won’t give up on us

Even if the skies get rough

I’m giving you all my love

I’m still looking up

And when you’re needing your space

To do some navigating

I’ll be here patiently waiting

To see what you find

‘Cause even the stars they burn

Some even fall to the earth

We’ve got a lot to learn

God knows we’re worth it

No, I won’t give up

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily

I’m here to stay and make the difference I can make

Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use

The tools and gifts we got, yeah, we got a lot at stake

And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend

For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn

We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in

I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not

And who I am

I won’t give up on us

Even if the skies get rough

I’m giving you all my love

I’m still looking up

I won’t give up on us (no I’m not giving up)

God knows I’m tough enough (I am tough, I am loved)

We’ve got a lot to learn (we’re alive, we are loved)

God knows we’re worth it (and we’re worth it)

I won’t give up on us

Even if the skies get rough

I’m giving you all my love

I’m still looking up