The Power of Loving Kindness

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.

Source Flickr.com courtesy of David Pinkerton https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mister_Rogers_Trolley.jpg

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.

Laura Staley
Laura Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla.

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  1. Kindness is an index of education of the heart and of feelings, of the ability to put oneself in the shoes of others, to help, to simplify life, to lighten its load and fatigue. It is a twin of courtesy: which indicates the mastery and use of good manners (so forgotten!) Combined with consideration for others, that is, empathy. It is the sister of sweetness, a delightful trait that makes life more pleasant. Kindness is a transversal trait: it is not at all incompatible with strength, nor with courage, nor even with determination, both in children and in adults. If anything, it can be valuable to put the velvet glove on a wrist that can be made of hardened steel, if needed. It can be allied to rigor, firmness, determination, making them, in an adult, more authoritative and accepted.
    Of course, in a world where people seem to be in a permanent state of war, talking about kindness may seem obsolete. And instead, just in such difficult and rough times, there is even more need for kindness.
    Kindness chosen as a lifestyle can become an overwhelming trait because it creates an oasis of well-being, for the kind person and for those lucky enough to be close to them.

    • Beautiful and eloquent reflections on the nature of kindness, the importance and benefits “the oasis of well-being.” Thank you so much for offering this wonderful contribution to the topic of loving kindness, Aldo Delli. May many people read your insightful and meaningful words. I appreciate you, your heart, mind, and profound offering here.

  2. Dear Laura, I am a little behind in my responses, but I needed to take the time to read your essay. As usual, your majestic writing provides a vivid picture of your earlier life journey. I can experience the small child watching Mr. Rogers and savoring his kindness. You take your past and manage to not only survive but thrive continuing to share us with us your unique gifts. Thank you for this!💖

    • Thank you so much, Darlene, for all your kind words and reflections. The process of reconnecting to the “light beams” (Like that of Mr. Rogers) who were present during a persistently difficult time period can be another layer of healing, of awakening. Attempting to see one’s life from a whole place takes widening the lens-something that can be difficult to do as a person (especially a child) is navigating so much hard. Seeing life through eyes and a heart filled with gratitude allows these gold nugget memories to emerge. I appreciate you so very much. Thanks, again, for taking a moment to read my writing. Those moments of your day spent with “me”(my writing) means a great deal. I do not take this for granted. I know your life and other people’s lives are full.

  3. Laura, this heartfelt message is a gift to all who read it. I think about the children I work with who are victims of adult irresponsibility and bad choices. Often they are also the receivers of the harshest of words by the people who should be their source of stability and love.

    Timing is everything, and this piece grips me at a time when I have two kids facing the most unimaginable realities. This week has been challenging, heartbreaking, and exhausting with two foster kids and a whole bunch of adults who may be causing irreparable harm to the adults who will grow out of this dark time. I’m only one small piece in the big picture, but you’ve helped me realize how important my words, my actions, my gestures can be to a child who hears negative and hateful thoughts far more than positive and loving thoughts. I know what happens in the brain when kids experience trauma, abandonment, abuse, and neglect. What you’ve given me here today with this piece is a reminder that we all have the power to make a difference with a smile, a touch, a hug, and a very simple demonstration of compassion.

    I am so grateful for you and this gift you’ve shared with me today, Laura.

    • Thank you so much for the work you do for children who have been victims of adult’s poor choices.
      Please know that you are absolutely making a positive difference in those children’s lives. I know it may seem small, but trust me, having an adult filled with compassion show up on behalf of a child can be the exact lifeline that child needs.

      You are so welcome. Parts of my own story are tough to share because I believe many would note the “unimaginable realities” and yet, very real, nonetheless. May we continue to understand the impact of trauma and do all we can to bring an end to infant, childhood abuse and traumas through education, the work that you are doing both in neuroscience and for the children navigating the court system, and resources that get to the core of these challenges. I’m grateful there’s now open discussion and pathways being created everyday for healing, breaking the cycle, and transcending trauma for human beings. We continue to learn about resilience. I’ve started reading a book by Kathy Kain, Ph.D. and Stephen Terrell, PsyD titled Nurturing Resilience: Helping Clients Move Forward from Developmental Trauma An Integrative Somatic Approach. I’ll let you know some of what I learn! I believe I’ve lived some of this so I’ll be fascinated to see the connections to my own journey to a flourishing life.

      I’m grateful to be connected to you, to learn from you, and to have my writing be so graciously received. Thank you.

  4. “A child’s brain undergoes an amazing period of development from birth to three—producing more than a million neural connections each second.”*

    This means that even a 30 second opportunity to smile lovingly at a baby or toddler can create positive neural connections and brain development. Imagine what we can do when we take those moments to connect with them with love and kindness, especially if they’re not getting that contact at home!

    Thank you, Laura, for this reminder of Mr. Roger’s impact on millions of children, and for sharing your memory of that experience.

    *https://www.zerotothree.org/espanol/brain-development

    • Thank you so much for this contribution to this story-the information about infant and child development, for sharing the link so people can be educated about how important this is.

      If we can end the cycle of traumas and abuse of infants, small children, children, and teens, we’d live in quite a different world. More adults realizing the power and importance of the neural connections can be compelling.

      And many of us are living testimonials of the power of resilience, the plasticity of the brain, regulating the nervous system after many traumas, post traumatic growth, healing, and transcending. And we’ve invested time, life energy, resources, and a passionate commitment to do so. We know so much more now than we ever have. It’s possible to flourish, to live a fulfilling, healthy life even if zero to three and beyond was a series of nightmares for a baby, child, teen, and/or young adult.

  5. What a beautiful piece Laura. Thank you for sharing it. PBS Kids Video App has old school Mr. Rogers shows available on demand and my son has been hooked. He watches one before nap every day. As I re-watch them as an adult I have a similar feeling as you describe. Mr. Rogers was a safety zone and I love listening to the messages he crafted. I can’t wait to see the movie – I haven’t watched TV since last March but I may break the streak for this one. ;)

    • Thank you so much, JoAnna. I’m so happy to hear that your son enjoys Mr. Rogers episodes-that they can still be watched by adults and children right now! I do recommend the movie. I didn’t know what to expect, but I experienced the story being very moving and Tom Hanks’ portrayal-compelling–how he captured that loving, quiet, energy presence Mr. Rogers. I learned things about his life that I did not know. I appreciate all your thoughts, your love for Mr. Rogers. I know we have the company of many children and adults.

  6. My heart aches to give the little girl that was you a big hug, Laura. You are remarkable, brave friend. You’ve perfectly captured the safe haven that Mr. Rogers provided. I haven’t seen the new movie, but wept buckets of tears during the documentary. I had no idea the difference he had made until I watched that…

    • Thank you so much, Kimberly. Mr. Rogers created a lasting and profound positive difference. I’d even go as far to say that it was more than the actual words he spoke-and these words were amazing-it was the energy, his being, his soulful, loving presence that radiated out each and every episode of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. I will now want to see the documentary. I appreciate your heartfelt reflections.

  7. Laura, I think about so many people who have gone through what you depict here and sometimes others around them are in the dark about it. I think about it regularly and just happened to watch a documentary last night on TV on the subject of childhood bullying that made me feel quite deeply around this topic. As you describe, I remember Mr. Rogers too and other childhood characters that I found to be warm and inviting at times where things were not so warm and inviting in days past. Thank goodness for those outlets of hope and grace.

    I really resonate with what you wrote and wholeheartedly believe in the power of kindness. I am glad to know you and see how as an adult you value and take pride in being kind to others.

    Kind words and kind smiles do have power.😀Thank you dearly for your offering to all of us.

    • Thank you so much, Maureen. I’m grateful to know that this issue is something you think deeply about and continue to learn about-that you recently watched the documentary and continue to reflect. Bullying is such a tough topic especially when this behavior happens out of view of adults -or people who can pattern interrupt the behavior and really work with both the people who are so tortured -doing the bullying and those who feel and sometimes Are powerless to alter the situation. Sometimes children simply must endure and find great strength inside themselves to connect with faith or spirit /nature/safe havens/ people (but they still may not feel safe enough to tell the truth about what’s happening to them!) or create alters inside themselves to survive and later shed the traumas, heal, and transform their lives. Being able to finally tell the stories from a place of great health and safety hopefully can open doors for others to know that healing and living a fulfilling life is possible-that help is available. That there are people who will believe you and support your healing journey.

      And YES! loving kindness matters greatly. I appreciate you so very much, Maureen, and all you’ve offered in your comments/reflections. :)

  8. Laura, thank you for reassuring me that I’m not crazy. I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers as a child. (My sons did.) But given the challenges of my upbringing, I remember every kind word ever spoken to me, every generous gesture, every person who showed evidence of caring about me. And those recollections planted seeds that continue to grow.

    One example: I was in a gym one evening. A woman came in with her little boy, Frankie. I know that was his name because her only interactions with him were to scream at him, even as she left him otherwise unsupervised. He was too young to be in the gym (I don’t know why he was permitted to stay), but I asked him if he’d like to work out with me. I showed him the exercises I was doing and selected appropriate weights for him. I told his mother he was all right every time she came to scream at him for “bothering” me.

    When she’d finished whatever she’d been doing, she came to scream at him that it was time to leave. Recalling every person who’d ever comforted me, I sat down on a bench facing Frankie. I put my hands on his shoulders and looked him in the eyes. I said, “Frankie, I don’t know if you’ll remember me. But I want you to remember this: You’re a very good young man. Please don’t ever forget that.” His smile showed equal parts relief and disbelief. Needless to say, I’ll never forget him.

    Thank you for this article. I’m so grateful we’re connected.

    • Oh, your story expands my heart, fills me completely, Mark. Thank you ever so much for sharing this, for being that genuine kindness for the little boy, Frankie. Yes, all the golden nuggets of kindness from other people may have been so tough for Frankie (and I) to let in because we were so desperate to be loved by our own mothers ( I imagine the boy, Frankie, was), I struggled sometimes to see and receive the kindnesses from others-I still sometimes feel immediately overwhelmed by all the kind words posted about my writing or even spoken to me-it takes a while to genuinely receive love from “clean” sources when you’ve endured so much “not that.” Had you been in my life, I’m certain I would have remembered you, had you interacted with me like you did Frankie. And I’m incredibly grateful when I look back on my life-for each and every single person who did and said what they could to me because it helped mitigate the hidden awful, heinous. The difference between Frankie’s mother and mine is Frankie’s mom openly yelled at him. My mom (and other tortured souls) did their raging and awful deeds in hidden places. My mother had the masterful capacity to shape shift into an impeccably polite, well-mannered person (most of the time) in public situations. I had friends who said to me, “I LOVE your mom!!” You can imagine the confusion, the shame, the hiding, the silence I held.

      And I’m deeply committed to being you in your story-to bring kindness to whoever I can, when I see bullying of all kinds. Thank you for being an in person, Mr. Rogers, for Frankie (and I imagine many other people!) Thank you for being who you are in our world. I’m profoundly grateful we are connected.

      Your story has entered my heart and will remain there for quite a long time. You have no idea how healing that was for me to read. Thank you, again, for sharing that interaction with Frankie. I bet he’s never forgotten you. I will not ever forget you.

      • Our stories are so similar, Laura. My biggest challenge was my Dad. (Long story.) But your story about your mother reminds me of Grandma and Grandpa O’Brien. Grandma, apparently, was such a tough customer Grandpa used to call her a house devil and a street angel. When people would see them out together, people would say, “Oh, that nice Mrs. O’Brien.” So, whenever Grandma would rip into Grandpa, he’d get a huge Irish grin on his mug and say, “Oh, that nice Mrs. O’Brien.

        As for helping children believe in themselves, that’s my mission every time I visit a school or get invited to do an event like this:

        http://woodmemoriallibrary.org/index.php/event/take-your-child-to-the-library-day-2/

        If I reach just one, it’s a win. Then I’m looking for the next one.

        One of my friends and connections, Wender Weiner Runge, believes those who come from darkness shine most brightly. You are a shining light. Shine on, my friend. The world needs you.

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