The Loveliness of the Little Good

STORMY WEATHER, 44×44,m/m

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Those words came from the David Brooks article I just read referencing the new documentary on Mr. Rogers.

There were so many weird things about Fred Rogers to make fun of if you weren’t a kid:

His voice made me kind of want to attach a jet engine equipped with mega-doses of testosterone to his voice box to make him talk faster.

To me, he seemed too slow, too overtly gay, too simple and at first blush, too patronizing of children.

He was a fun object of ridicule from my generation

Because we didn’t need him so much.

We were not the ones to be confused as to why the adults would not let us swim in pools containing black people.

When Kennedy was shot we were reduced to stoney silence in the face of all the adults breaking around us; The salve of Mr. Rogers was for those smaller than us. We had nowhere to turn.

I saw the documentary and realized every single syllable, inflection, clothing choice, topic discussed

Were intentionally chosen

To foster his one mission:

TREAT CHILDREN AS THE HIGHLY INTELLIGENT AND FEELING BEINGS THEY ARE.

He spoke slowly and put his face close to the child.

No question was stupid.

“Mr. Rogers..can I be sucked down the bathtub drain with the water?”

He replied softly and evenly: “No, Bobby..just the water goes down the drain.”

Phew.

He gave up his desire to enter the ministry in lieu of understanding he could be of service to his chosen congregation of tiny people in other ways.

He was not gay as his measured and intentionally soft voice suggested but married to a lovely woman who supported his unwavering attention to how best to use TV as his educational tool of choice.

Disability, racism, divorce, death, step-parenting, illness, loneliness, single parenting, riots, bullying, shyness…..each of these topics Fred Rogers approached with the assumption kids were very ok with the truth if presented kindly and without the slime of patronization.

In an interview I read, the black policeman character Mr. Clemmons said that once Fred Rogers had leaned in quite close and looked him in the eye saying: “I like you as you are. I wouldn’t want to change you.”

Instead of feeling the vulnerable expression maudlin Mr. Clemmons said he felt truly seen and loved.

He never forgot it.

When I roll around my neighborhood in my wheelchair and, with intention, extend a small “Good Morning” to most I pass

I get to see the seeming shock a verbal invitation to join in solidarity, if only for a moment, from a stranger can elicit.

It is my version of “I like you as you are”

And each time I see relief

At this tiny recognition

Of our shared

Shuffle

Down a sometimes very gritty road indeed.

comments

3 Responses to “The Loveliness of the Little Good”

  1. Becky Patterson on July 7th, 2018

    Well you did it again. In all your painterly way of slinging a bouquet of words to us. With perception. Honesty. Gracefulness. And your bottom line of KINDNESS is what it’s all about. I wish we didn’t haven’t to wait to be cool sophisticated adults, getting hurt in life, before we had the humility of coming back around, listening to him again, and saying. You were right on Mr Rogers. I heard his talk in front of the Senate where his calm clear, simple straight forward presentation on education billed em over

  2. Paul Drescher on July 7th, 2018

    Beautiful!

  3. Dennis Chamberlain on July 7th, 2018

    So well said and illustrated, with wonderful eloquence. I wish I had appreciated him as my son Cory did. I am sure that when I walked into the room as Cory watched, I probably departed, rolling my eyes. I am a lot older and (relatively) more wise now. It’s the wisdom and the role model of Mr. Rogers that we desperately need in this increasingly angry world.

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