In Gavin Edwards’ book “Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever,” the first way to “Live More Like Mister Rogers Right Now” may look contradictory: “Be deep and simple.”
“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” remember, was aimed at very young children — those who had a deep need for answers that very few adults are any good at simplifying.
Edwards tells a story of a sermon that Fred Rogers — yes, he had a first name — heard as a seminary student. Trying to apply what he was learning, Rogers sat judging the preacher, later saying “I heard nothing but the faults.”
But the lady beside her whispered through tears that she’d heard just what she needed.
Edwards wrote that this was how Mister Rogers developed his view that there was “holy ground” between a communicator and a listener, or even a TV viewer. Rogers explained communication in what Edwards called “two poetic lines: ‘We speak with more than our mouths. We listen with more than our ears.’ ”
Another “aphorism,” to use Edwards’ word, shows Rogers’ “deep and simple” approach:
“Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.”
This way of presenting truths he’d learned, writes Edwards, helped Mister Rogers “slice through the complexities of the modern world.”
“He lived his life the same way he spoke, cutting the distractions and fripperies so he could focus on what was important,” Edwards added.
So try, deeply and simply, to make goodness attractive this week. Think of the time Edwards tells about when Mister Rogers was asked to add to a display at Hallmark’s New York City flagship store. His addition wasn’t flashy, of course. It was a small, plain pine tree with a plaque that had a deep, simple message: “I like you just the way you are.”
Have a good week, neighbors.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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