'Kindness and Wonder' -- Be kind to strangers, like Mister Rogers was

'Kindness and Wonder' -- Be kind to strangers, like Mister Rogers was
Photograph by Margaret H. Laing

Some of the stories in the second “Way to Be Like Mister Rogers,” part of Gavin Edwards’ book “Kindness and Wonder,”  choked me up with the beauty of Rogers’ bravery as he loved and comforted sick children — and injured people in general. It’s part of what already makes this part of my collection of Sustaining Books.

But the stories shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, I grew from enjoying Mister Rogers on television to knowing that he was a Presbyterian pastor… and I grew up around wonderful examples of what kind of people they are, examples that surround me to this day.

Edwards quotes a set decorator on the show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” saying in admiration of her boss, “He blended into life.” This decorator, Cathy Tigano, married a co-worker, carpenter Pat Gianella — and their boss, the Rev. Fred Rogers, performed the ceremony. At the wedding, Edwards reports that Rogers said, “So you met in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. And now we’ll make this real.”

Edwards also tells a story of a troubled young man who shared an elevator ride with Rogers. He barely had time to blurt out that he didn’t want to bother Mister Rogers, “But I just wanted to say thanks.”

The next sentence gets me: “Mister Rogers smiled at him.”

That might have been enough for me, or maybe I’d have been able to accept the hug that followed and the way “Mister Rogers listened intently.”

He showed care to a young man he had just met, sharing memories of their respective beloved grandfathers.

The young man thanked Mister Rogers as they parted a few minutes later, and apologized if he’d made Rogers late for an appointment.

Edwards ends this “Way to be Like Mister Rogers” with what Mister Rogers told his new friend:

” ‘Sometimes you’re right where you need to be.’ ”

As you meet strangers this week, keep that in mind, dear neighbor-readers.

Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.

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