The Hero We Need.

Last week on Facebook, I shared this video of Fred Rogers (better known as Mister Rogers) back in 1969, appealing to the senate to increase funding for public television programs.The video brought me to tears. Like, sobbing, snivelling, “ugly cry” tears. I could sense that my reaction was…layered. I could feel that it hit a nerve deep inside, and so I decided to explore my feelings around it.

So I watched the video again.

And the tears fell even harder.

For starters, I felt the humanity of the experience…Fred appealing to a man who, at least in the beginning, was somewhat dismissive and seemed frustrated with the tone and cadence with which Fred spoke. He appeared to be skeptical about the topic and skeptical about this man who sat before him.

But, as you saw, Fred won him over. And I was overjoyed by the result because it felt like redemption for someone I loved and admired; a man I grew up with. 

I realized that part of my reaction came from that.

But I knew there had to be more.

Part of my pain came with the knowledge that this kind, gentle man no longer walks among us (he passed away from stomach cancer at the age of 74), and although I grieved his death back in 2003, I felt a wave wash over me; a grave sense of anguish knowing that he is not here; now.

Because I want him to be here. Now. I think I need him to be here. Right now. And I knew that part of my pain came from being reminded that he was gone.

But I knew there was still more. I kept asking myself why I was so affected by this human appealing to the senate and why I was so pained by his being gone?

I realized it was because of all the things he represented and all the things he taught us and all the things he fought for (in his calm and gentle way) seem to be the very things we need so desperately now. In this noisy world fueled by media that tries to tell us what to fear and how to look and who to hate and how to never, ever fill the ever-widening hole inside of us, Mister Rogers reminded me of the importance of slowing down, getting quiet, and remembering that I was good…just the way I was. More than good, he reminded me that I was unique. And he made me see that uniqueness as the very thing that should be celebrated; not ridiculed.

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has–or ever will have–something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” ~ Fred Rogers

Using the vehicle of his TV show, he reminded us all of this fundamental truth through thoughtful conversations and puppets and neighbourhoods of make-believe. And music. Music like his popular “It’s You I like”, written by Rogers and performed regularly on the show (in fact, Rogers wrote every single piece of music ever used on the show. He was a music major as well as a theology graduate). Here are the lyrics:

“It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair
But it’s you I like
The way you are right now,
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you,
Not your toys
They’re just beside you.

But it’s you I like
Every part of you.
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll remember
Even when you’re feeling blue
That it’s you I like,
It’s you yourself
It’s you.
It’s you I like.”

In a film called “Mister Rogers and Me: A Deep and Simple Documentary Film”, made by Benjamin Wagner, a former MTV producer who spent some time with Fred one summer, he captured Rogers saying “What really bothers me is one person demeaning another. That really bothers me.”

I believe we can all agree that Fred Rogers wouldn’t demean a fly (he was a vegetarian for moral reasons). I imagine he’d become curious about the fly, read a book about flies or speak to a fly expert, and then share what he’d learned with us so that we could become more curious and respectful of flies.

Respect was the foundation upon which Fred Rogers built his life and career. And anyone who knew him agreed that Fred in real life was essentially the same as Mister Rogers on TV. In 1983, he went on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Joan Rivers was guest-hosting and I re-watched the moment he gently expressed, “Children are to be respected. And I respect them deeply. They’ve taught me an awful lot.”

I believe that although I couldn’t have expressed it, my younger self knew that I was being respected. Mr. Rogers never lost sight of what it meant to be a child and he understood that my young brain needed more time to take in new concepts; time to pause and really absorb what was being taught. He waited for me to catch up. He spoke slowly and gently and he asked questions that allowed us all to come up with the answers for ourselves before he revealed them to us.

Although Rogers never claimed to be a teacher, he was quoted saying, “I am not a teacher; I simply help children learn”.

In fact the word “simple” was important to Rogers. Wagner quoted Fred saying, “I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.”

As I kept going deeper with the pain I was feeling, I realized that I was grieving simpler times; childhood times where I could relax into a place with this man with the soothing voice. In his quiet, gentle way, Mr. Rogers taught me to be myself, accept myself, and respect myself for my differences. And he reminded me to do the same with my neighbours, whomever they might be.

I found my grief reminding me that in today’s world, this fundamental piece is missing as a whole. We are flailing because of imposter syndrome, trying to keep up with the Joneses, wanting, needing, having-to-have, and pushing ourselves to the brink of burnout fighting to be bigger, better, faster, stronger (thanks, Kanye).

We see bullying at home and in school yards and in the workplace. Not just physical blows but emotional ones, as well, where words are yelled out and typed onto screens. It is said that “hurt people hurt people” and we experience people’s pain through acts of violence. Sometimes, people die at the hands of a human who felt their life didn’t matter; that they didn’t matter.

Fred Rogers reminded us to be kind to one another and he taught us to sloooow doooown (in fact, the stoplight in the first scene of the show was flashing yellow; a signal to parents to spend a little quality time with their child). He reminded us to have patience (he wasn’t afraid of “dead air”. If things didn’t work perfectly on set, he didn’t ask to cut…he was patient and it taught us patience, as well). And he reminded us to accept and respect others because of–not in spite of–our differences.

Fred Rogers made the world a better place.

And I loved him.

In 2001, Rogers told CNN, “I got into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture for those who would watch and listen.”

And use it, he did. For over 30 years, Fred Rogers nurtured our hearts, minds and spirits with his demonstration of love and acceptance using the vehicle of the longest running children’s TV show of all time; a show in which he ended each episode, “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There is no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

And that is why I cried so hard.

Because for all the things I’ve worked on and all the things inside I’ve yet to heal, Fred Rogers let me know that he liked me; just the way I am.

And I think I need that now, more than ever, in a world that keeps telling me that I’m not enough. I believe we all need that so that we can become the heroes in our own lives and in the lives of the children who are watching us. By getting back to what’s important–the simple yet profound act of treating our neighbours the way we wish to be treated, with dignity and respect–we can all become the change we wish to see in the world. Because while we can’t bring Fred Rogers back to the neighbourhood, we can honour his legacy by staying true to the values he held most dear.

So, thank you, Mister Rogers. Thank you for what you did in 1969 to improve children’s programming. Because you not only accomplished that, but for over 30 years, you improved our lives…just by being you.

And I like you just the way you are.

And I always will.

Because I want you to love your life one bite at a time.

 

 

P.S. Want some goodness to show up in your inbox daily? Then I hope you'll sign up to my 14 Days of Wellness! Simply enter your name and email address to begin receiving positive daily intentions around your mental and physical health. It's free, with no diets, products, challenges or catches...just a chance to remember how amazing your brain--and body is--for 14 days.

P.P.S. Speaking of brains and bodies, on April 21 & 22, 2018, Roger and I, along with our team, are hosting The Healthy Brain and Body Show in Ottawa for a second year. We are so excited to bring this show back even bigger and better! We would love to see you there as an attendee, where we have so much we want to share with you. We can't wait to explore, connect, learn and shop at the show WITH you! Please say hello if you come. Roger and I will both be there the entire weekend. It would be a thrill to meet you. 🙂

We can't WAIT to serve you, so remember to save the date! 

P.P.P.S. Let’s be friends! I’d love to connect on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram. Plus, if you haven’t already subscribed to my blog, you should! That way, you won’t miss anything. Plus, as a thank you for joining, you will receive my 14 Days of Wellness. http://sarahtalksfood.com/

2 Comments

  • Claudia

    Reply Reply February 28, 2018

    If you are my OG and he is your OG, I am loving the fact he is my OOG. Buckle up, copilot. Xx

    • Sarah Roberts

      Reply Reply February 28, 2018

      This!!!! Locked and loaded, my friend. Ready for what’s to come. So happy to be riding this thing BESIDE you. xo

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