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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 helps people thrive in the physical spaces where they live and work. She educates people about the optimal arrangement of belongings for comfort, safety, and flow; de-cluttering for freedom; and planning transitions to new or updated spaces for optimal joy in life. Laura knows that the conditions of our homes and workplaces shape the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by more than a decade working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to help her clients produce remarkable results in their lives. Her own awakening to the power of feng shui came on the heels of a flood and the realization that she could live with beloved belongings rather than unloved hand-me-down stuff. Her trifecta of serving people includes public speaking, writing, and compassionate coaching. Laura is a published author of the books Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui and Cherish Your World Gift Book: 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Your Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a full-time 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 loving her dog, laughing with great friends, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. You are welcome to connect with Laura below.
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Mark O'Brien

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.

Maureen Y. Nowicki

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.

Kimberly Davis

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…

JoAnna Bennett

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. ;)

Sarah Elkins
Sarah Elkins

“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

Melissa Hughes, Ph.D.

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.

Darlene Corbett

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!💖

Aldo Delli Paoli

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.

John Dunia

I’m so glad you found some solace in Mr. Rogers. There are probably many cases where he saved hundreds of lives. Thank you for bearing your soul, Laura.

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