This is the ninth of 12 “amazing” installments of “12 days that amaze.” I am pushing myself to write 12 posts about things that amaze me leading up to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser in Chicago that Karin, Deb and I are participating in. In doing so, I must also be open to the everyday amazing things that happen around me.
84 years ago today, a baby was born. This baby would grow to love music humanity. He would wear many hats, including teacher, minister, songwriter, author, television host, husband, father, grandfather, and children’s television advocate. He would also have a profound impact on my life.
Deb said something in a comment yesterday that stuck with me, and it seemed appropriate for this post:
It’s amazing to me how much joy can be traced to that moment.
I think about this sort of thing all the time, and I can never get my head around the infinite potentialities that are born with every chance encounter or historical event. Think of all the people who have influenced your life in some way. They’re innumerable. Think of all of the things they had to do to get to the place that overlapped your experience in space and time, and likewise, all of the things you had to do–involving all other players in your reality–to be in that space at that moment. It’s mind-boggling.
Those connections, which don’t always include physical meetings, are amazing to me. This isn’t a biography, and I don’t claim to know all of the early events that happened in that particular baby’s life that would eventually earn him the rank of “saint” in my mind. I simply want to show my gratitude for a man who played a role in my development as a child, and perhaps even more significantly as a parent so many years later:
Fred McFeely Rogers.
This is one of my favorite clips from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a show that ran for three decades.
When I became a parent (without cable*), my love for Mister Rogers was rekindled and given a whole new meaning. Every episode I’d watch with my kids would inevitably make me tear up or full-on cry. His compassion, respect, and consideration for children has always blown me away.
I’ve worked with kids with special needs, and I’d like to think that I’ve always treated them with the same kind of personal regard that Mister Rogers did. When it comes to my own kids, that sort of thing becomes more difficult to maintain (to put it mildly). I still have a lot to learn from Mister Rogers. Let’s look at the lyrics to this particular song:
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 (your fancy chair)–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.
Profoundly simple, and simply profound. Pure, unconditional acceptance. In retrospect, Mister Rogers is probably one of the reasons I went into the field of music therapy, but that’s difficult to pinpoint. I can’t remember the first time I watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, but as Deb said, “It’s amazing to me how much joy can be traced to that moment.”
Happy birthday, Mister Rogers. I’m glad you were born.
P.P.S. I forgot to mention that Mister Rogers died in 2003 from stomach cancer. Stupid cancer.
*Even when we got cable, I chose to watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.