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A Loving Day in the Neighborhood

A Loving Day in the Neighborhood

I was well into college and adulthood by the time Fred Rogers began inviting television viewers into his neighborhood and teaching children for 33 years how special and lovable they were, just as they were.

I saw a documentary the day of this writing, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” [to be released in theaters June 8] that brought Rogers’ heartfelt wisdom and acceptance right back.

A Presbyterian minister and child development expert, Fred Rogers helped children face the deepest fears of childhood – feeling scared, feeling hurt, feeling lost.

The recent post Carry Love and Appreciation in Your Wallet is a tool to recover that sense of innate okayness and goodness as adults.  Here are quintessential quotes from Mr. Rogers for the inner child in all of us who needs to know, from time to time, that they are truly lovable.

You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to know that he or she is lovable. And, consequently, the greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.

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.

This is what I give. I give an expression of care every day to each child, to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying, “You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”

When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.

In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of — moments when we human beings can say “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” “I forgive you,” “I’m grateful for you.” That’s what eternity is made of: invisible imperishable good stuff.

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has—or ever will have—something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.

It’s our insides that make us who we are, that allow us to dream and wonder and feel for others. That’s what’s essential. That’s what will always make the biggest difference in our world.

The gifts we treasure most over the years are often small and simple. In easy times and tough times, what seems to matter most is the way we show those nearest us that we’ve been listening to their needs, to their joys, and to their challenges.

It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff.

Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.

A high school student wrote to ask, ‘What was the greatest event in American history?’ I can’t say. However, I suspect that like so many ‘great’ events, it was something very simple and very quiet with little or no fanfare (such as someone forgiving someone else for a deep hurt that eventually changed the course of history). The really important ‘great’ things are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always ‘in the wings.’ That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.

In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.

When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.

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.

The older I get, the more convinced I am that the space between people who are trying their best to understand each other is hallowed ground.

I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.

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.

At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.

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