This is the title of the recently released movie about Mr. Rogers, Fred Rogers, and the half hour television show he hosted and created, Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, which aired from 1963 to 2001.
As an ordained minister, he considered teaching children his ministry and believed that children had deep feelings. The message of his ministry was kindness, love and empathy as he spoke to the viewer about such issues as divorce, death, competition, war, assassination, racial tolerance and anger. His focus was to teach peaceful ways of dealing with feelings.
His definition of neighborhood was that it was a place where you could share your worry, fear and feelings of being unsafe and the neighborhood would take care of you. His famous saying,
“won’t you be my neighbor?” was an invitation to enter a safe harbor, to be connected to others where you’d be cared for, comforted, loved, and find healing and be able to offer the same to others when needed. There were many more important lessons he shared over the years; here are a few of my favorites.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give anyone is the gift of yourself.” Giving yourself means being present with our loved ones. Presence is not about problem solving or logically addressing issues our partners bring to us. Our loved ones only need us to be present with them in their pain, worries and joy and just bear witness to it. Being present means giving them our undivided attention, being accessible, responding to them, engaging with them and being curious about their experiences/fears as they share from their perspective.
As an example, I recently wanted to support my cousin whose mother was in the final stages of Alzeheimer’s Disease. There were no more treatments available and she appeared to be transitioning, so Hospice was called. Living 2000 miles from my cousin and not being able to physically assist in anyway, all I could offer her was my presence by listening attentively to her and to talk with her whenever she needed. We shared many conversations over the months leading up to her mother’s death. Often those calls were initiated by me just to check in on her. She shared with another cousin, that our conversations had been such a support and comfort to her. The only gift I gave was my time and attention. In giving myself, she felt my support, care and love and was not alone in losing her mother.
“You always make each day a special day by . . . just being you/yourself.” We all need to know that we are loved for who we are, not by what we do. I recently watched an episode of the “Midwives” series which took place in 1959 during a time when homosexuality was a crime. In this episode, a young, married, father-to-be frequents a club for gay men and is caught in a police sting operation, is charged and goes to trial. The episode showed how family, friends and community struggled to deal with the event as well as the father-to-be who struggled with great difficulty as those he loved demanded he change and struggled to accept who he was.
“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It's the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.” To love someone, means we are going to hurt them and they are going to hurt us. We experience pain in either case. Yet, through the pain, we learn about ourselves, those we love and more importantly, we grow.
“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.” When we know who we are and what we value, choices become so much easier to make.
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” To be loved when I fail or when I’m scared is what I need. To be comforted is so calming. We all long for our loved ones to accept us as we are.
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet, how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” We may never know the impact of our smile, a kind word or a caring touch will have on others and yet these simple things may change a person’s life forever.
“Love is at the root at everything, all learning, all relationships, love or the lack of it.”
“The greatest thing we can do is to help someone know they are loved and capable of loving.”
We all long for love and the goal of our actions are directed toward getting the reassurance we need, to know we are loved.
So let us take in Mr. Roger’s message of kindness, love and empathy and incorporate it into our daily lives today letting others know how special they are and how much we love them. We often carry these thoughts of love in our hearts and rarely share them. Saint Exupery, author of The Little Prince, said “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” So, these thoughts of love, admiration, gratitude, and connection, reside invisibly in our hearts and need to be released by our giving them voice and sharing them with our loved ones. It is not honor, prizes, or gifts that nourish our souls; it is knowing we are loved. Let your loved ones hear the love in your heart.
To assist you in speaking from your heart to those you love, especially your spouse, partner, parent, child or friend, you may find the HEART Cards helpful. Find HEART Cards at https://www.holdmetightworkshop.com/the-heart-cards/ or The HEART Cards app on iPhone and Android. Try giving your loved ones one card a day and see the changes that occur as you heart is made known to them.
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