After an attack in Paris, a Fred Rogers quote began trending on social media. Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
While we can sit slack-jawed at horrific headlines, Mr. Rogers shifted the focus from the horror mongers to the helpers. He encouraged us to look for those who were propping each other up instead of tearing each other to pieces. To be part of the binding instead of the breaking.
And as I consider the wisdom of Fred’s mother, I think of other things Mr. Rogers has taught me. Maybe you can, too.
Just show up.
Without fail, Mr. Rogers showed up at the same time every day on our tiny TV with rabbit ears and no remote. Later, he did the same for our girls. He showed up with a smile and a song and always said we were special.
Recently I was at an event for girls and one of them was in tears at the end of the night. She wasn’t sure who—if anyone—was going to pick her up. That’s an irrational thought for some kids. But for those who’ve experienced trauma, it’s a real fear. In time, her dad showed up, and reassured her that they would never forget her. I believed him. I couldn’t tell if she did or not.
When Mr. Rogers walked through his front door you could count on him singing, “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood . . .” as he changed into a zipper sweater and his sneakers. Like clockwork.
According to researchers, there’s power in routine and ritual. Studies come and go, but I know it to be true in my own life. When Ann Voskamp posted a free printable, 25 for Sanity Manifesto, on her website (aholyexperience.com), her first point changed everything for me. 1. First things first: Word in. Work out. Work plan. And in the daily rhythm of beginning each day in God’s Word, then a walk, jog, or wog (a combination of the two), followed by a disciplined commitment to the day’s tasks, I experienced what Ann promised. “Consistently do things at the same time everyday and find yourself a new person.”
Care about your people.
A lot of Mr. Rogers’ people were make-believe. I get that. So did the children who were transported into the Neighborhood of Make-Believe via his trolley. Yet through puppets like King Friday XIII, X the Owl, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, and the adults who interacted with them, we saw what genuine care for each other looks like no matter the topic in town.
In her book, How to Love Your Neighbor Without Being Weird, Amy Lively writes, “Inside every home are people hungry for personal attention, meaningful relationships, and real friendships.” Through her words and life she’s on mission to reverse the isolation and loneliness in every neighborhood. When we get past the excuse-making and potential awkwardness of getting to know the people who share our neck of the woods, Lively casts a vision of stronger communities and safer streets.
When Mr. Rogers, who went Home in 2003, accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, he said, “Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. Ten seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time . . .”
From the beginning of his life to the end, he was looking for the helpers. And when the help people need is found in you and me, we will join him in achieving what matters most in a lifetime.