It has been said that Mr. Rogers often carried around a note in his pocket that was given to him by a friend of his who was a social worker. The note read, ” Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” He carried these words with him as a reminder of that truth and his life was a reflection of that philosophy.
Mr. Rogers was my childhood friend. Every day during “arsenic hour,” as my mother called it…that fragile hour before dinner when everyone was hungry and tired and emotional..my mom would place us in the care of Mr. Rogers while she went to get dinner on the table. She walked away knowing that we were in good hands and for a half an hour we learned the most important of life lessons..
1.We learned the key to success:
“There are 3 ways to ultimate success. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.”
2. We learned what it meant to be a hero:
“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero to me.”
3. We learned the value of play:
“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning. When we treat children’s play as seriously as it deserves we are helping them to feel the joy that’s to be found in the creative spirit.”
4. We learned the power of words:
“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person…One kind word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”
5. We learned that it takes a neighborhood:
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It is easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
6. We learned that we are important:
“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.”
7. We learned that love is a choice:
“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.”
8. But the main lessons we learned as we sat and watched him change his shoes were…We had value, we were loved, and we were okay just the way we were:
“I am just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us, and I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead. But I would like to tell you what I often told you when you were much younger..I like you just the way you are.”
What a profound lesson. I think the greatest lesson I have learned during this adoption journey is the importance of loving people (particularly children) where they are rather than trying to make them into more “loveable” children.
A few days ago I had an unexpected email from the therapist of Tyler’s brother. Of the 5 biological siblings this brother is the only one that has not been adopted. He is the oldest and the one that carries the most scars from the abuse. He is in a foster home but has been labeled “unadoptable” by the system. His wounds are deep, he is an older child, and the workers feel that finding an adoptive home for him would be difficult so they have decided to leave him in his current foster home until he exits the system. I received an email from his therapist because when asked what he wanted for his birthday next week he replied that all he wanted was to see his siblings again. This email put into motion the efforts to get these biological siblings together for a visit after many of them having no contact for years. We are hoping to get everyone together in a couple of weeks at our home. I know it is going to be a special day for everyone involved. As I have reached out to the other adoptive families, these past few days, the stories they have to share are similar. The behaviors we have all dealt with, the fears our kids have battled and the wounds that have slowly healed are all too similar. These kids survived horrible circumstances and have all struggled with trusting the love offered to them. They didn’t know the security of unconditional love as young children and have had to be taught those same lessons that we often take for granted..that we have value…we are loved…we are ok just the way we are.
It is a lesson that so many need to hear. Your value has nothing to do with what you have, how you look, the life you’ve lived or the talents you possess. Like Mr. Rogers would say, “You have value because of who you are.”
“It’s you I like.
It’s not the things you wear,
it’s not the way you do your hair.
It’s you I like…”
Mr. Rogers has been on my mind the past few days because of our Trunk or Treat activity this weekend at church. Trunk or Treat is a chance for the kids to trick or treat in a safe and fun environment. Families from church decorate the back of their vehicles in different themes and the kids trick or treat to the different cars. We decided to make our trunk into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Toby dressed as Mr. Rogers and the girls handed out treats with the puppets. It was a cold, windy night but that didn’t deter many. The turn out was great and the kids all had fun.
Perhaps we all need to ponder on the wisdom of Mr. Rogers more often. The world would probably be a much nicer place..
“Let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say:
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor..” 🙂