Sunday, January 31, 2010

People of Influence - Mr. Rogers


Get it out of your system because I'm serious. This post is about Mr. Rogers. Mr. Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers neighborhood. I have endured 14 years of mockery from my husband because of my enduring affection for Mr. Rogers.

I remember sitting on the floor in front of my grandparents' television and watching the three best shows ever. Sesame Street. The Friendly Giant. Mr. Rogers. That winning line-up filled my mornings throughout my preschool years. Sesame Street taught me my ABC's, 123s and not to litter (pick it up, pick it up, don't litter). The Friendly Giant taught me you can stick a rooster in a bag and hang it on a hook and he'll still be your friend if you play the recorder for him.

And Mr. Rogers taught me that imagination is a precious gift and that I am one of a kind, special and that is a wonderful thing.

I would imagine that I was on the trolley speeding toward the Land of Make Believe. I would play with Daniel in his clock/house, avoid Lady Elaine and sing with Lady Aberlin. It was a place where anything you thought of was possible. It was a place where imagination was king. It was my favourite place in the world.

But it wasn't just the Land of Make Believe that drew me in. It was those moments when Mr. Rogers looked into the camera and spoke directly to me. When he talked about feelings, being special and liking people just the way they were. Those words were like a magic spell that made me feel invincible. I was special and unique and that was powerful.

Everyday he would sing simple little songs to affirm his wee watchers. He wasn't a great singer but he was genuine and he connected with us. I remember many of those songs and now sing them to my own children. I want them to feel the strength in the words and know the truth that even though we are all different we are all special. I want them to know this so well that when they become teenagers and feel pressured to be 'part of the crowd' they will say "no" because mom & Mr. Rogers say I'm okay just the way I am.

Sound naive? Not really, I had those moments as a teen and I know part of my strength to stand up for myself came from being taught from toddlerhood that I am important, special and great "as is."

If you question the power of these simple words take a minute and try this out. Below I am going to include the lyrics to two of Mr. Rogers' songs, print them off and head for a mirror. Look yourself in the eye and say the lyrics to yourself. I challenge you not to feel the strength of this message.

"I'm proud of you, I'm proud of you.
I hope that you're as proud as
I am proud of you...
And that you're learning
How important you are
How important each person you see can be"

"You are my friend
You are special
You are my friend
You're special to me
You are the only one like you
Like you, my friend, I like you"

Now take another minute and say these words to a kid in your life. Say them everyday and watch their self esteem sore.