Being Fred … Being Me … Being You

Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a popular children’s TV show in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. I never saw it. But here I sit in the Hyland Cinema, waiting for a documentary on Fred Rogers to start. It’s called Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Apparently he was a kind soul and many kids “got” him. I like to think the same is true of me.

One of my favourite quotes, author unknown:

I won’t remember what you said
I won’t remember what you did
But I’ll always remember how I felt when I was around you

Bring it on, Fred!

***

My eyes widen as Fred’s story unfurls. How am I going to remember all the juicy quotes? And then I felt my pocket. I had a few index cards in there for making notes when I read books. I whipped out my pen and scrawled in the darkness. Here’s what Fred had to say:

People who have smiled you into smiling
Hugged you into hugging
Loved you into loving

Find me one person who, whether they know it or not, doesn’t need this

Kids need adults who will protect them
From the molders of this world

How tempting it is to make children in the image of ourselves
While they desperately need to be uniquely themselves
An original in the world

(While holding eyes with a handicapped girl, and extending a puppet to her)
Would you like to see Barney the Owl?

We so much need that precious contact
The sense of being truly held and acknowledged

I’ve always weighed 143 pounds – “I (1) love (4) you (3)”

What forces are at work on the planet
Far beyond the reasonableness of coincidence?

(Fred as a puppet)
I’m not like anyone else

(His friend, a girl)
I know
You are just fine as you are
You’re not a fake
You’re no mistake

So wise, this Mister Rogers, knowing what’s in the hearts of kids
And expressing the truth about them in a way that they can hear

What is essential in life is invisible to the eye

Fred planted this seed, first in his mind, and then in his actions with children
In some kids, the seed will transform into wisdom, many years later

(Talking to a young boy in a wheelchair)
I’m glad to see you
It’s you I like
Every part of you

Dear adult:
Please see me
Not my report card
Not my gold medals (or lack thereof)
Not what I look like

Let’s make goodness attractive

Why not? There are other ways to be an adult
Ways not usually featured on the nightly news
Let’s show ourselves to kids
In all our happiness and sadness
In our kindness and compassion

(Speaking to the U.S. Congress in defense of public television)
This is a plea not to leave the children isolated

Kids need the presence of fully alive human beings
They watch us like hawks
Trying to figure out how to lead their lives
Let’s give them some good examples

Don’t listen to those who try to make you feel less than you really are

There are other voices
Keep your ears peeled
You will hear them

(Fred as a puppet, and many decades ago as a kid)
I can’t go to school tomorrow
Because I don’t know everything

Fred Rogers knew children because he never lost touch with being one
I’m not Fred
I’m Bruce
And you’re you
May we all listen to the young souls around us

Close

I went to hear the Barra MacNeils last night.  They’re a Celtic musical family from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada.  And I got to see them from the middle of the front row.

Often the folks featured in a song stood at the front of the stage, and their faces loomed above me, maybe eight feet away from mine.  It was intense.

When Lucy sang “Caledonia”, I fell deeply into me.  Her eyes were open, and the little white dots at the centre shone.  All was liquid, and her soul reached the words:

Let me tell hou that I love you
That I think about you all the time
Caledonia, you’re calling me, now I’m going home
But if I should become a stranger
Know that it would make me more than sad
Caledonia’s been everything I’ve ever had

All was well

Later Kyle strode to a spot right above me with his fiddle.  He played a soulful Scottish air, with his fingers gliding so sweetly on the strings.  The violin purred into the love song and Kyle would often close his eyes in response.  I would have such beauty linger forever.

Then it was a rousing drinking song, soloed by Stewart.  On the chorus, four brothers were only a breath away from me, blasting out the melody and harmonies.  The whole was greater than the sum of the parts, with the tones vibrating inside my heart.

Towards the end, Lucy did some fancy Irish dancing and I watched her feet fly.  The taps on her soles beat out a brilliant rhythm and her feet twisted this way and that at supersonic speed.

All happened in my very near presence and the immediacy was a huge gift.  Human beings blissing a fellow traveller in the front row.

Power

I’m used to the mellow energy of meditation.  Quiet and all-encompassing at times.  Nothing that I would describe as “powerful”.  But today’s been different.

I’ve been working out a lot on the elliptical at the gym, to get ready for my cross-Canada bicycle trip this summer. Usually, at the end of an hour of sweating and swinging my limbs every which way, I’m pooped.  But this morning, after the workout, and after I drove home, there was a tingle inside.  I headed out the front door for the 20-minute walk to the Belmont Diner and soon energy flooded me.  Yes, it was POWER.  My head felt “big”.  Something was coursing through me, pushing out from my heart.  I expected that I’d look in the mirror and see a 6 feet four hulk … hopefully not green.  I walked fast, feeling that if a car careened towards me, I’d just flip it over my shoulder.

At the restaurant, I was even more talkative than usual.  I wasn’t an idiot.  I wasn’t argumentative.  I just felt this great urge to talk about stuff that’s important to me … and I did.

My body felt strong, like I could tackle the Tour du Canada today, average 30 kph (good luck with that!), and burn up the hills.  I know I’m getting fitter but this surging flow was brand new.  And yes, I liked it.

This afternoon, I volunteered in the Grade 5/6 class. Tiffany, the teacher, asked me to read a chapter from The City of Ember, a science fiction novel.  The characters included Doon and Lina, two 13-year-olds, and an assortment of quirky adults.  I had the best time pulling on different voices.  At one point, someone in the book yelled, so I followed suit, scaring a kid or two.  I was intensely “there”, tender and snarly in turns as I inhabited the folks of the novel.

Basically I felt “fierce” all day, like my chest was about to burst my buttons, like I could have lifted my own body weight … no problem.

So it was another rich life experience, knowing I can be intense as well as sublime.  And I decided that I like all of it.