WWMRD?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Today is the birthday of one of the greatest Americans of all time - Mr. Fred Rogers. There's a grass roots movement afoot to make today a national holiday in Mr. Rogers' honor. I'm supportive of the idea, but I doubt it will ever happen. It doesn't seem like our culture spends a lot of time rewarding those who make being kind and supportive their life's work.

I love Mr. Rogers, and I love him more now than I did when I was a youngster watching him on T.V. I'm sure that's because as a preschooler I had no idea how very special he was, not only as a T.V. personality, but as a human being. But I do now. Mr. Rogers was, quite simply, a mensch. This was a man who spent his life - his whole life - encouraging others to be the very best they could be. He told kids that they were special, that they had something special to offer the world. He believed that each and every individual had intrinsic value no matter what. And best (and most mysterious) of all, he resisted the cancer of cynicism in his life, regardless of how bad things got.

There's a lot to admire about Mr. Rogers, but for me, that last characteristic is the most profound, and the most meaningful. I'm prone to cynicism and disgust, because from my perspective, there's an awful lot of things in this world that encourage that reaction. But Mr. Rogers didn't see things that way - he saw a world where even when bad things happen, there are still plenty of people who do extraordinary things, things that uplift the human condition and demonstrate the virtues he embodied.

This particular virtue - the ability to see the best in others while accepting their flaws without giving in to cynicism - is something I've aspired to my entire life, and I've always fallen short. It's so much easier to be cynical, to sneer and roll my eyes at the condition of the human race rather than attempt to see what's best in us and to work to optimize those characteristics.

But doing the easy thing and doing the right thing don't often meet in this world. I need to work harder at personifying the virtues Mr. Rogers demonstrated. I need to let go of my cynicism, and try to see the world (and the people in it) in ways that lift me up. I need to spend more time "looking for the helpers" and less time "railing at the asshats." When confronted with a situation that makes me tired, or bored, or cynical, I need to pause before reacting and ask myself, "What would Mr. Rogers do?"

Happy birthday, Mr. Rogers. 143.

3 comments:

Carol Elaine said...

I <3 this. And Mister Rogers.

Thank you, Janiece. 143. IPOY.

Shawn Powers said...

I love that we both blogged about Mr. Rogers today. I hadn't read your post yet, but yeah, I totally agree. None of my kids watched him. A 20-something coworker today at lunch told me that he did, in fact, grow up watching Mr. Rogers, which means my kids are around the first generation to have missed him. That saddens me greatly.

I'm closer to 243 than 143, but that works too. We Love You, Mr. Rogers. ;)

Steve Buchheit said...

Also, while there are a few more programs now that try to tell kids they're special and lovable just because of who they are, back when he started doing it the world was totally different.