I hadn’t thought about Mister Rogers or the ways he had planted beautiful seeds in my little girl heart and soul until I watched the movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” with Tom Hanks. I loved this movie, Tom Hanks’ portrayal, the unexpected story that emerged moved me. As I listened and cried, I remembered how significant Mr. Rogers actually was in my life. He existed as a gentle, quiet, consistent, loving presence amidst my night terror making childhood. After seeing the movie, I purchased and read the book, Kindness and Wonder: Why Mr. Rogers Matters Now More than Ever by Gavin McKeon. I highly recommend reading the book and seeing the movie.
I loved Mr. Rogers.
Not one significant adult in my growing up ever looked at me and said, “I like you just the way you are.” Quite the opposite, I heard too many times all the ways I was not enough and even a “worthless piece of s&*^.”
Demeaned and belittled by words and deeds of important adults, I found utter respite in the 30 minutes I was fortunate to fully experience Mister Rogers Neighborhood uninterrupted.
His soothing voice, his eyes looking directly into mine, and those words he would say directly to my aching, yearning, demoralized little girl’s heart would resonate, connect with the very soul of me. While I did not know about the witness consciousness or that part of me that watches me do me, I knew spending time with Mr. Rogers on TV made me feel calm, loved, nurtured. I felt such wonder and awe when trolley would roll down the track to prepare to visit the Magic Kingdom of Daniel Tiger, King Friday, and all those wonderful puppets and the lovely Lady Aberline.
The safe havens I discovered as a child happened to be the public library, outside with the trees, dirt, rocks, pill bugs, the creek, the handful of times I got to hold my dad’s warm hand, the time he and I snuck out of the house to go ice skating on a dark, starry night, the time he and I drove to a swim meet, where I competed and won a trophy. I feel asleep holding this award close to my face that I woke with an indentation on my cheek.
I remember the homes of my two best friends also joined the sacred spaces and time periods of grace. What I didn’t realize at the time was the importance of Mister Roger’s presence, consistent words of acceptance, as an additional calm harbor. I’m forever grateful for his loving, quiet predictability.
Those invaluable moments with Mr. Rogers became an irreplaceable lifeline. He introduced me to whole worlds that I could visit in a very magical way. Mr. Rogers told me that there was no one like me in the whole world. Some tiny part of me completely believed him, utterly trusted him, his energy, his kind words that wrapped their loving energy around my traumatized psyche creating a balm and a buffer, which laid a foundation for the resilient grown woman I have become.
Most people in my life growing up never ever knew what I endured. Most bullies and tortured souls commit their unconscionable deeds in hidden places.
Never underestimate the power of kind words emanating from your loving heart and brave, gentle presence towards a child, a teen, a full-grown adult. Your loving energy presence matters in our world even more than the words you might struggle to speak because you don’t know what to say. A radiant smile, a soft touch on the arm, the silent support of picking up someone’s spilled groceries, and compassionate eye contact with another person all communicate kindness.