‘Kindness and Wonder’ — Accept the changing seasons, as Mister Rogers did
today at 4:00 pm
The ninth “way to live more like Mister Rogers” in Gavin Edwards’ book, “Kindness and Wonder,” is “Accept the changing seasons” — but it goes much deeper than watching for signs of spring.
Edwards starts the chapter with the story of the March 23, 1970, episode of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” when Rogers goes to feed the fish at the tank in the kitchen. He discovers that a fish is dead.
He asks the viewer, “Do you see a dead fish?” and then describes how that fish is the one not “swimming or breathing or anything at all.”
He tries giving the fish a bath in salt water, because he heard that is sometimes helps when a fish is sick. But when that doesn’t help, he dries the goldfish’s body and calmly tells the viewer that “we better bury it.”
He takes the fish’s body out to the yard on the set and buries it. Then, “in his usual calm tones” as Edwards puts it, he tells about the death of his beloved dog when he was young.
(That dog’s name was Mitzi. The Mitzi in my life, a poodle, died 14 years after Mister Rogers’ goldfish, but this story still touches me.)
“And she got to be old, and she died. And I was very sad when she died, because she and I were good pals. And when she died, I cried. … And my dad said we’d have to bury Mitzi. And I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to bury her because I thought we’d pretend that she was still alive. But my dad said her body was dead and we’d have to bury her. So we did.”
Then he walked back into his TV house, talking about his aunt and uncle giving him a toy dog after Mitzi’s death and how he can still remember her.
(I know the feeling about my own Mitzi.)
Later in the same show, a dog character called Bob learns that the trolley can’t be dead; although it isn’t working just then, it can’t be dead since machines aren’t alive.
Still in the same episode, Rogers sings, “Some things I don’t understand/Some things are scary and sad.”
In half an hour, one episode, Mister Rogers gave a basic explanation of death, talked about grief as a process, and said it was all right to cry. (After all, he admitted that he cried.)
“I feel this is very helpful for them,” Rogers said, “to make them realize they are not isolated in their feelings.”
Edwards notes that Rogers’ “advice for children coping with grief” was also good for adults, because death has a way of “leveling and reducing everyone.”
That advice, as Edwards sums it up, is deep and simple:
Talk to them.
Share quiet times.
As Edwards wrote:
“Fred once said that ‘the Kingdom of God is for the broken-hearted.’ In other words, it’s for everyone.”
He was a great help to those who had to get their hearts broken early in life.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.
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