Last night I watched Mr. Rogers’s Documentary again, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I needed to be reminded that someone who believed in love and tenderness as the only way to heal was also misinterpreted and called all kinds of names. Especially because he was male. I am not going to make his maleness my focus of this post, but I hope it comes through as a secondary topic quite clearly to an overarching problem we have in our society–specifically, in our schools and churches.
Mr. Rogers was headed to seminary when he saw how television was being used and targeting kids. He saw a wonderful medium being used in a horrifying way that was teaching kids not to value human dignity. He delayed seminary and went to work in television and got a child development background to do it. He took everything that made television popular and did the exact opposite. Low-budget props, he used time in a different way–things were speeding up and he was slowing down–, he kept things simple and consistent in each episode knowing kids who have experienced trauma (may not have named it that then) needed consistency in their lives. He was an unlikely star and it shows how something borne out of necessity can have a lasting effect long after we are gone.
Mr. Rogers might not think his program had much of an impact based on how society looks right now. I cannot imagine what he might say, or if he might actually have given up after all (he was pushed to that point several times) if he knew about all of our school shootings. But I think he would have found a way to persevere. He definitely would not have avoided the conversation about them.
As I look back at his shows, I am stunned by what he took on to share with us as children. Nothing was off the table to talk about, even in deep despair. He did not want children to be left alone in isolation with their own fantasies of loss and destruction. As a child, I did not notice how bold this was because he made it feel safe to talk about these issues. He made a home for so many of us.
My therapist tells me what she is noticing in me is I am always trying to create a home. This is why I responded so strongly, in a good way, to the idea that the book of Romans is a homemaking letter. We are a bunch of people who are prone to homewrecking because of unhealed wounds and it is wreaking havoc in our neighborhood. I want people to feel at home when they are with my family, and most people do. But it takes only one person to misinterpret and attempt to wreck what is sacred. And the most painful admission I can say about this is that they know not what they do. We are a trauma uninformed neighborhood and it is time to talk about that.
I am going to continue this line of thought in another post. This will be a multi-post reflection and one blog post.
See these pictures below? These are images from the first week Mr. Rogers was on the air. Look at what he was taking on right from the start: Building walls, resisting change, authoritarianism due to fear. But the neighborhood sent messages of peace to the king: Tenderness and peaceful coexistence.
We want peace in the neighborhood.