JUST THE WAY YOU ARE…
Do you remember “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood?” (Most people simply referred to it as “Mr. Rogers.”) It was a beloved children’s television series created and hosted by Fred Rogers and ran on a multitude of public television networks including PBS, from 1966 to 2001.
Our older daughter, Kate, who started watching it when she was about three, absolutely loved it. There was nothing not to love…
Mr. Rogers “got it” about kids – what they thought about, what delighted them, what worried them - and knew how to connect with them. (And just for the record, he connected with me, too.) There was a quiet simplicity, gentleness and honesty to the program. Mr. Rogers behaved very naturally on camera. He didn’t play a character. He just played himself.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self.” Mr. Rogers said, “Kids can spot a phony a mile away.”
And there was a wonderful predictability about the show that was anything but boring. In fact, it was endearing. The “Neighborhood (electric)Trolley” always arrived (crossing from left to right) at the same moment; Mr. Rogers always walked in, hung his coat in the closet and put on a cardigan sweater, always took off his dress shoes and put on sneakers – all the while singing a little song called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
And of course, at the end of the segment, he removes his sneakers and puts his shoes back on, switches from his sweater back to his coat and sings, “It’s Such a Good Feeling.” Then the “Neighborhood Trolley” leaves, crossing from right to left. But not before Mr. Rogers tells us, “You always make each day a special day. You know how: By just your being yourself. There’s only one person in the world that’s like you, and that’s you. And people can like you…just the way you are.”
You could count on it every time.
Imagine: “just the way you are.” It wasn’t about how you looked, or how fast you could run, or how many toys you had or even how many people “liked” you. Just the way you already were…was just right.
No wonder kids loved him so much. No wonder they smiled through the whole show…and afterwards. No wonder they felt good about themselves…
Lately, I’ve been thinking about Mr. Rogers… longing for his simplicity, honesty, total predictability and unconditional love… and wondering if we could recreate a bit of that in our crazed, now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t, “What if I’m just not good enough?!” lives.
Maybe for just a minute we could stop struggling, stop obsessing, stop assuming the worst – and start owning how good we already are… Maybe we could relax into our selves and celebrate what’s actually working. And invite the people around us to do the same.
And maybe if we get on a roll, we could even say to someone we care about - or someone we work with – or maybe to a child….You know what? I like you just the way you are.
And then maybe we could sing them this song…