A Genuinely “Good Guy”

Mr. Rogers came onto television in my late teens so in my childhood he was unnoticed. Later watching “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” with my son during his younger years I gained respect for Fred Roger’s work.

Fred McFeely Rogers was not just a TV personality but also a Presbyterian minister, song writer, child activist and author in addition to being a good role model. For 895 episodes his show was on PBS spanning over three decades. He was a genuinely “good guy” who swam every morning, was a vegetarian and never smoked or drank. In memory, one of his trademark sweaters is on display at the Smithsonian.

I ran into a man by chance in public yesterday who was soft-spoken with a similar voice and demeanor to Mr. Rogers who stuck in my head since. What has kept flopping around mentally is the start of the show where Fred sang his “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” as he changed into his trademark sweater and deck shoes. You know how some harmlessly inane song can get stuck in your head and won’t go away? Well, this tribute to Mr. Rogers is being done with respect in hope “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood” gets unstuck from my mind.

I will always remember Mr. Rogers a truly gentle soul who devoted 50 years of his life to educating and bettering the lives of children. As far as I know he only had good intentions and was never marred by intrigue or wrong doing. I hope that always remains true as all of us are kids inside and need examples like Fred Rogers. I am grateful my son brought him and his message that “we’re all special” into my life.

You can make believe it happens,
Or pretend that something’s true.
You can wish or hope or contemplate
A think you’d like to do.
But until you start to do it,
You will never see it through
‘Cause the make-believe pretending
Just won’t do it for you.

You’ve got to do it. Every little big.
You’ve got to do it, do it, do it.
And when you’re through,
You can know who did it,
For you did it, you did it, you did it.

It’s not easy to keep trying
But it’s one good way to grow.
It’s not easy to keep learning,
But I know that this is so:
When you’re tried and learned,
You’re bigger than you were a day ago.
It’s not easy to keep trying,
But it’s one way to grow.

From the song “You’ve Got to Do It” by Fred Rogers

“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 out job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression”. Fred Rogers

I am Right Here

Taken from “Finding Your Real Self” by Kathleen D. Cone

It is me,
I am here,
Right inside of you,
and, although
You don’t know me
Very well,
Quite yet,
Time is on our side

and the days will grow longer,
The times together stronger.

We are friends,

and I’m here
Where I’ve always been.

You are light,
You are joy,
You are kindness beyond measure.

I am the child in you.

The purest part of me is you, the little boy who lives within. You are filled with an innocent joy for being alive and have never lost your sense wonder and adventure. For as long as my memories go back you have been with me and we have witnessed together a broad scope of the experiences of life. I know you have been scared at times and upset at others. We have shared wonderful moments of happiness. We’ve gone through a lot of sadness and heartbreak too. Even though I misplace my spark for life sometimes, you never lose your abundant joy for being alive.

I am deeply grateful for the little boy inside, the child within, who reminds me what true and honest feelings are, how beneficial hope and simple joy can be and how much fun playing is!

You will find more happiness
growing down than up.
Author Unknown

Lost and Found

At the back of the class room was the “cloak room” is where we hug our coats. In one corner was a round cardboard “can” with metal edges that had originally been made to hold about three gallons of ice cream in the lunch room. Taped on the container was a piece of construction paper with “Lost and Found” written on it in Miss Pittman’s near perfect handwriting. She was a soon to retire, old maid school teacher who lived in the rundown school teacher dorms behind the high school. Years late I would come to feel sorry for her as I realized how lonely and sad her life must have been. She had evaporated into obscurity before I was twenty-one.

If we found anything in the class room and did not know who it belonged to, we were supposed to put it in the lost and found. If we lost something that was the first place to look for it. Sometimes things ended up there because some 5th graders would put other people’s things there as a joke, although I never thought it was funny.

No matter how strict Ms. Pittman was or how much in turmoil was in my life then, those were simpler times in that wrong and right seemed clearer to me then. My Mother had decided to marry a man sixteen years older that my Brother and I did not like. As we would come to know, that was for good reason. He was a mean and abusive stepfather and we always thought he had a few screws loose. In those days I knew bad was bad. That was clear. Then I imagined good was simply the absence of the bad.

Through my childhood and into early adult life there were parts of me that ended up lost and stayed unfound for many years. Unlike the classroom of my youth, there was no ice cream bin to check out for what was missing. I did not develop the ability to love a girl/woman properly and it was replaced with neediness and want. With very little family influence of love expressed and shown, there were no teachers to emulate. So I read books, watched TV and saw movies. When I was sixteen that’s about all I knew about love.

My education continued, but painful and slow, learning the most difficult way from repeated mistakes and bad choices. The girls, then women, I was attracted to were often attached and several times I became the ‘secret guy” on the side. Too, I had a penchant for choosing ‘female roller coasters’ who were emotionally unstable. I sure could pick ’em, but they were not the problem. It was my ‘picker’ that was. I look back now and can see I thought the intensity, the anguish, the heartache and the longing totaled together was love.

Today awareness of who I am, where I come from and what I have been through has brought a willingness to pull the lost part of me out of “lost and found”. Like a broken vase that has been glued back together, the fractures and scars will always visible. But it is from those very wounds that knowledge and wisdom benefits me today. My sensitivity, ability to relate and identifying my feelings are all keen sense now. From what once hurt and confused me came great teaching from strict and difficult teachers too, just like Miss Pittman. But I got A’s and B’s in her class and give my self pretty good grades for living life and knowing how to love today. I am grateful for the difficulties I endured that eventually made me more able than most to know and express my feelings.

People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself.
But the self is not something one finds,
it is something one creates.
Thomas Szasz

Never Too Late To Have A Happy Childhood

Frequently it’s a simple thing that wakes or heightens my gratitude. A cloud in the sky, a stunning flower, a memory, a dream, a hope, watching a small child or even a feeling that arrives from a source unknown. This morning I came across the children’s poem below that talks about a whimsical carefree life a make-believe trout might have. While complete fantasy, the spirit of it put a smiling feeling inside me at the start of my day.

“The Wishing Fish” by Thomas Vorce

What if you could be a trout
And splash and flip
And flop about.

Amidst the river’s ripples you
Would catch sun shimmers
And renew the summer wind.

You’d stop to chat
With ‘trouty’ friends
And make amends.

Or discourse on the willow’s bend.
The gala of the water’s course,
Like laughter of a child,
Would run along your gullet
With the mystery of the wild.

And every wish you ever heard
Would be in chorus with the birds.
As palettes made of rainbows play,
You’d flap your fins
To greet the day.

Along the banks you’d rest at night
And fire flies like lamps would light
The glowing of the August Moon,
Where fish make wishes of their own
And all the best remains unknown.

In childhood I found nursery rhymes and fairy tales caused great mystery and fantasy to unfold in my mind. Then I could imagine such things might happen and could even see them in my child’s theatre of the mind. While mostly dormant for a long time, I am grateful the child within is awakened.  Being able to feel the wonder of make-believe again is a wonderful gift that I appreciate more at this age than I ever did as a child.  I am grateful the sad child of youth has found some measure contentment and gladness for living.  I have found it is never too late to have a happy childhood.

Fantasies are more than substitutes for unpleasant reality;
they are also dress rehearsals, plans.
All acts performed in the world begin in the imagination.
Barbara Grizzuti Harrison