Dave and I recently watched the movie, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” – the behind the scenes story of Mr. Rogers and his impact on others both on screen and off. It deals in particular with Mr. Rogers’ positive influence on a magazine writer whose life was burdened and messy. Overall, it was inspiring. (I would highly recommend it!)
It struck me that the reason Mr. Rogers appealed to so many people was that he reflected the Spirit of God! Just think about the fruit of the Spirit- “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…” Need I say more?! THAT WAS Mr. Rogers!
Mr. Rogers was obviously passionate about children, affirming them and loving them. One of his big goals in his programming was to express this simple theme: “Feelings are mentionable and manageable.” Instead of avoiding talking about sometimes difficult subjects, he courageously faced them and talked them through in a manageable, understandable way that children could understand and accept. He gave kids permission to think, feel, and express their fears, doubts, and confusion without feeling ostracized, judged, or shamed.
I think that that is very timely in light of our present situation with Covid 19. Let’s face it, not just kids but adults as well are brewing with emotions right now due to the pressures put upon us in all sorts of ways. What do we do with these emotions and the fears and concerns that drive them?
First of all, we need to recognize that these emotions are legitimate and extend grace. Instead of jumping all over each other when one person is triggered with anger or judgmental opinions, we can recognize that underneath all of that is a person who is burdened with fear, or helplessness, or hopelessness, or some other deeper belief.
Instead of lashing back, perhaps a little “verbal judo” is in order. Reflective listening is a powerful tool, using statements such as, “Let me see if I heard correctly what you are saying…” then try to rephrase what that person was communicating. This of course, can sometimes take a lot of self-control as we so often want to defend ourselves or point out the other’s perceived wrong thinking! But as we learn how to truly “listen” to each other, fears often get defused and deeper, more vulnerable beliefs are safe to be exposed and expressed.
Dave and I like the phrase, “Just be present!” Realize that what most people really long for is someone to simply be present with them in their hurts and hang-ups. I think that’s what Mr. Rogers was able to do with people- he was someone safe that people could open up to knowing that he cared deeply about them and wanted the best for them.
Lastly, Mr. Rogers had a habit of prayer- both of praying for others and of asking others to pray for him! Certainly a great way to end a conversation!!!
May we all learn from his example … an example that really, simply imitates Christ!!!
“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” – Ephesians 4:32, 5:1-2