Over the years, I’ve come to realize that if you remain open and awake to what’s happening around you, then life will offer you an endless parade of lessons.
Lessons can come in the form of experiences. They can come in the form of encounters and individuals. And, they can come in the form of something we see up close, or witness at a distance. (They certainly come when you watch something historic happen, like the impeachment hearings.)
Not all lessons are pleasant, but they all can serve you in some way. That’s why it’s up to you to make sense of them, find meaning in them, and ultimately grow from them.
Life is our greatest teacher, but every once in a while, a really great person comes along that imparts lessons on our collective humanity. Mr. Rogers was one such teacher.
I find it amazing that he is still “alive,” even so many years after his death. I also find it important to reflect on the fact that so many of us are longing for his guidance, wisdom, and gentle tone to help us navigate the here and now.
Mr. Rogers saw into people’s hearts and souls. He recognized our collective wounds and gently guided us forward to a place where we felt safe, seen, soothed, and secure. Those are qualities that every good therapist says you need to thrive in life. It doesn’t matter if you’re a child, or if you're an adult whose inner child is still running wild.
Think about those four words and ask yourself, “Do I feel safe in my relationships and in my home? Do I feel seen by my family, by my loved ones, by my friends, by my colleagues, and by our leadership? Can I soothe myself in a healthy way so that I feel secure in my life, regardless of who’s in it or what is happening around me?"
That's the work of healthy parenting, but if you didn’t get that, lucky for you, you can learn to reparent yourself at any age. I’ve come to believe that millions of us long to be reparented, which is why I’m happy that the film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" is coming out on November 22. (My friend Tom Hanks is bringing Mr. Rogers to life in the movie, and he tells us what he took away from playing that role in an exclusive Sunday Paper
I watched a documentary last year about Mr. Rogers and, I must say, I found myself moved to tears. I couldn’t recall anyone ever speaking to me in a gentle tone as a child. I couldn’t recall the kindness he exemplified either. I found myself cracked open in a way I didn’t expect, which made me wonder, “Who is teaching us on a national level today in the way that Mr. Rogers did? Who has a platform like his and is using it for good in the same way?"
I also thought, “Would Mr. Rogers even be successful today, or has our national collective voice become so hardened, so judgmental, and so critical that we might scoff at him or ridicule him? Would we even allow someone like Mr. Rogers the time or space to do what he did and reach us today?”
Now more than ever, I think we need a voice like his to cut through the noise. We need a voice that can make us feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure. We need a voice that calls us to be better, to be kinder, to lead with our hearts, and to quiet our raging minds. We need a voice that can help us make sense of the news, so that we don't lose hope when he hear about yet another horrific school shooting, or when we bear witness to anger (which exists just about everywhere we turn).
I’ve been thinking that now is a moment for each of us to pick up Mr. Rogers’ mantle. We can emulate him in our relationships, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our houses of worship, and yes, in our politics. I’ve noticed that when someone raises their voice at me, I often don't hear them at all — even though they’re yelling. I’ve noticed that when someone starts to belittle or attack me, I tune them out. I know I’m not alone.
Leaders, bosses, parents, partners, lovers, friends: we all share the need to feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure. We all long to belong and be welcomed into the neighborhood. Mr. Rogers may be gone, but his lessons are very much alive and needed today. They’re needed not just by children, but by all of us. Because, the truth is, we are all children at heart. We’re all just trying desperately to be enough, to matter, and to find our way.
Maybe, just maybe, we can regain our collective strength and unity by doing what Mr. Rogers did. We can speak kindly and look into the eyes of the other. We can look into the heart of another and ask them gently about their wounds. We can ask them what we can do to help heal their broken sense of self.
Once someone has reached your heart and your soul — once someone has helped you heal — you can become a healer, too. And why wouldn’t you? Our collective world needs healing. Our neighborhoods and our politics need rebuilding. Our families and our relationships need reparenting.
So, let’s take a page from Mr. Rogers. Let’s stop yelling. Let’s stop finding fault in others. Let’s stop hiding in our corners. Instead, let’s find out how we can help one another to feel safe, seen, soothed, and secure. That’s our strength. That’s our hope.
Life’s greatest teaching is to love one another and care for one another, so I believe and I hope that we can all pick up where Mr. Rogers left off. Isn’t it time?