Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thank You, Mr. Rogers ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Thank You, Mr. Rogers ; Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Article excerpt

In this age of television celebrities, it's good to be able to honor a man who encouraged every child who came into his neighborhood to be a "real" celebrity by expressing qualities such as kindness, patience, and friendliness to everyone. I think Fred Rogers, who passed on last week, actually defined "reality TV," which he saw as an opportunity to confirm that "each person is special, deep inside, just the way they are."

"I got into television because I didn't like it!" he told me in an interview three years ago. "But I never give up hope, because television's an extraordinary tool for education and enrichment."

And that became Fred's life work. It was always a beautiful day in the neighborhood when he strolled shyly onto the set, changed from shoes to sneakers, pulled on a cardigan sweater, and began to dispense thought-provoking advice to children on how to manage life.

But Fred's advice was not tossed into the air in the manner of so many hardened professionals. He prepared by praying before every broadcast. For two hours he read from the Old and New Testaments in the Bible and from inspirational works by many other writers.

Fred described "thank you" as two of the greatest words in our language. He said: "All day long I offer prayers of gratitude for God's goodness. There are so many things around us that are so beautiful, and so real, and so nourishing.... I'm convinced that the Holy Spirit somehow translates our offering in a way that meets the need of the person who is watching and listening. The space between the television set and the person in need is holy ground. No one knows exactly how the Eternal will use what we offer in love."

Fred's love spilled generously into millions of homes across the globe. A mother told me a few days ago that she used to watch "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" with her children. "With a dad who had left home when they were young and showed little interest in them," she said, "my children benefited from getting to know, at least electronically, a man with such 'good-Daddy' qualities. My son and daughter were sure he had a genuine interest in them. And I'm sure they were right. …

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