‘Kindness and Wonder’ – Always see the best in people, like Mister Rogers did
today at 4:00 pm
Gavin Edwards’ eighth “way to live more like Mister Rogers right now” is to “Always see the very best in other people.” (For more ways, from his book “Kindness and Wonder,” see posts like these on previous recent Mondays.)
“In modern culture,” Edwards writes, “we tend to reduce complicated people to just one or two attributes: that rapper is unhinged, that politician is insincere, that guitarist is a cad.” But Fred Rogers, says Edwards, tried “to be the public representation of kindness and concern for children.” That left him very vulnerable to caricature in pop culture, Edwards adds.
Even the ’80s TV show “Family Ties,” in which a character worked for a public TV station, joked about Mister Rogers by asking “Why can’t he change his shoes before the show?” according to Edwards.
Young viewers would have thought that was impossible. “Sometimes Mister Rogers was evoked as an impossible ideal, one that people can mimic but not live up to,” writes Edwards.
But mostly, Fred Rogers lived with comics poking fun at him, in what Gavin Edwards calls “an unhappy echo of the childhood days when other kids taunted him and called him ‘Fat Freddy.’ “
But he could put ministry to others ahead of his feelings.
Personally, even decades after I watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” I disliked the “comic” parodies of the show and its host. One of several things I’ve underlined in the book is that “many Mister Rogers impressions are based on other impressions, not on actually watching the show.”
Edwards reports that during the time when Eddie Murphy was doing a parody on “Saturday Night Live” called “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood,” Fred Rogers surprised Murphy at NBC’s Rockefeller Plaza offices, where Rogers had once worked. “It’s not every day that someone you’re parodying shows up on your doorstep,” Edwards observes, but Rogers did — and they “hugged and posed for a Polaroid together.”
Later that day, Rogers appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman,” Polaroid photo in hand. Speaking of parodies, Rogers said, “Some of them aren’t very funny. But I think a lot of them are done with real kindness in their heart.”
Edwards adds, “The evidence suggests that was untrue, but it wasn’t just a story that Fred told himself to make the mockery sting a little less.”
Parodies being talked about as kind is a new twist on Jesus’ advice to “love your enemies; do good to them that hurt you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
But maybe that’s just me seeing the best in it.
Margaret Serious has a page on Facebook.