Lessons from Three Mister Rogers: Taking Time to Care

This in the sixth in the Be Good Not Great series.  The purpose of this series is to examine the lives of those people that seek goodness over greatness.   Hopefully the lessons from their lives will inspire us all to eschew worldly greatness to store up the more eternal treasures of love and kindness.   You can read the first of this blog series here:   https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/03/16/be-good-not-great/ .

Most of us are familiar with the Mr. Rogers from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and the recent Tom Hank’s movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”.  I have had the uncanny luck to have had three Mister Rogers in my personal neighborhood.    Each of these good men taught me the importance of slowing down to listen, teach and learn.  I still struggle with inculcating this lesson in my daily life.  It is sad to say that in this hurried world the loudest voice is often the last voice.  But it shouldn’t be that way.  To connect with another person’s heart, you must take the time to be quiet and listen; to provide guidance in a patient, introspective way.   The three Mr. Rogers in my life modeled this lesson during my childhood, adolescence and adulthood. 

The Mr. Rogers of my childhood was Fred Rogers from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  Each day after elementary school I would watch his show.   I loved the routine to it.  He would come in through the door with the stop light flashing yellow; a signal to all that it was time to slowdown.  Then he would switch into his sweater and sneakers to impart his daily message of patience and love.  He talked in a slow and quiet manner; a contrast to the Saturday cartoons of the day and even a sharper contrast to the hyperactive shows of today.  He provided me a different sort of male role model; no less masculine but more nurturing.  Something that I needed sometimes since I had a larger than life Father, more akin to Fred Flintstone than Mister Rogers. 

In the wonderful book, “The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers” by Amy Hollingsworth linked here:   , Mr. Rogers explains his talent as ‘The Gift of Going Slow”.  As he explained to Amy in the book: 

“…I’ve never been a kind of hyperactive, runaround kind of person.  I think one of the greatest gifts that we can give anybody is the gift of one more honest adult in that person’s life – whether [the recipient] be a child or an adult. 

And so, for me, being quiet and slow is being myself, and that is my gift.”

Indeed, the gift of slowing down is one that we all should strive to obtain.  Taking time to care for one another and to glean from the introspection the needs of the heart.  Also, slowing down to discern the right path forward.  As this first Mr. Rogers sang in one of his many songs:

“I like to take my time
I mean that when I want to do a thing
I like to take my time and do it right.”

The second Mr. Rogers was someone in my actual neighborhood in Chesterfield Township, Bill Rogers.  Bill was co-coach with my Dad Big D on our little league baseball team Red Sox and worked with my Dad at De Laval.  Mr. Rogers and my Dad made a great coaching team leading us to many wins over our arch nemesis the Black Sox and other teams in our little league division.  They made a good team both coaching and work since they had contrasting styles.  Dad would get in the faces of the umpires, rival coaches, and players.  He could be both inspirational but also intimidating.  In contrast, I learned more how to improve my baseball skill from Mr. Rogers, who had a more patient teaching style.  It may have been a Father/Son thing; but when I wanted to learn the technique to properly field a grounder, I went to Mr. Rogers.  He would take the time to show me to follow the ball into the glove, get to low to the ground and use two hands to secure the ball.   I also had the pleasure to visit Mr. Rogers and his family at their home.  I spent time exploring the woods near their house with Glen and talking to his daughter Mandy and Mrs. Rogers.  I was always struck by the kindness, love and respect of the Rogers’ household.

The last of the Mister Rogers that taught me the lesson of patience and introspection was my Sunday School teaching partner for over ten years – Roger.  He was called Mister Roger by our middle school students as a sign of respect.  Mister Roger much like my Dad and Mister Rogers as Little League coaches made a great team as Sunday School teachers.  I was always thinking of crazy ways to teach the lessons of Christ through entertainment.  Roger in contrast would use quieter, more spiritual methods that nevertheless captured the teen’s attention.  I still remember with amazement the popularity of his retelling on the Legend of the Candy Cane.  It is really a great children’s story, but I thought it a little young for our rambunctious, middle schooler audience.  In addition, Roger read the book by showing the illustrations in the book by making slides and showing them on a projector.  Nevertheless, the teens were captivated as Roger read the book that relates the Christian symbolism of the candy cane and its meaning for Christmas.  Sometimes the simple, quiet approach works better than one that is flashy.  I learned this powerful lesson from Roger, a truly devout man and Confirmation sponsor to my two middle children.The three Mr. Rogers in my life have taught me the lesson of quiet, patience, and introspection in a world that is often loud and overwhelming.  During the blessed season of Christmas, it is important for all of us to learn the lessons of the three Rogers and take some quiet time to think about the good people that shaped our life.  And especially God’s only son that came to teach us in the stillness of a silent night.  Merry Christmas!

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