My friend is a fanatic about Mr. Rogers b/c of the depth of his Christian faith. He was one of the few famous people who actually was in real life as he portrayed himself on television, which is heartening at a time like this (i.e., #metoo). I am reading a book by Amy Hollingsworth, The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers: Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor, which is a compilation of her reflections about him. Below are some quotes she uses to frame her reflections.

Ms. Hollingsworth writes about how Fred Rogers believed in helping children to express, not suppress, their emotions, but also to control / channel them in ways that would not hurt others. Mr. Rogers would play piano or swim, if he felt angry. Here’s an accompanying quote from Madeleine L’Engle’s book, The Irrational Season:

Righteousness begins to reveal itself as that strength which is so secure that it can show itself as gentleness, and the only people who have this kind of righteousness are those who are integrated and do not suppress the dark side of themselves.

She also writes about how Fred Rogers taught her who her neighbor is: the person standing in front of her. He emphasized the importance of seeing God in each person we encounter. Here’s a quote from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov:

Know this: You should judge every person by his merits. Even someone who seems completely wicked, you must search and find that little speck of good, for in that place, he is not wicked. By this you will raise him up, and help him return to G-d. And you must also do this for yourself, finding your own good points, one after the other, and raising yourself up. This is how melodies are made, note after note.

The author also reflects on the power of being fully present to someone, and quotes from Cardinal Joseph Bernardin’s The Gift of Peace:

I tried to look everyone in the eye and make each person feel that he or she was important, the only one present at the moment…. When you convince people that you really care and that, even if hundreds of others are around, at that particular moment they are the only ones that count–then you establish a new relationship…. You have somehow mediated the love, mercy, and compassion of the Lord. In other words, the encounter also has a significant religious dimension: It helps strengthen the bond, the relationship, between each person and God.

How I wish I could have that mindset whenever I interact with people… Sometimes in a group gathering, my gaze wanders, wondering whom I would rather speak with, whom would I potentially gain more from? It’s usually a consumeristic lens that I take, versus a perspective of giving and blessing.

 

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