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Wisdom From One Neighbor To Another

Fifteen years after his death, Fred Rogers still makes a difference.

As only the sweatshirts that still bear his resemblance can say, "It's still all good in the hood."

For Christmas last year, I decided to buy my daughters a once-a-day calendar. As they eat breakfast, I thought, they will grow infinitely wiser–pondering whatever philosophical and life-changing message they read each day. 

This was no ordinary calendar. This was the “Mr. Rogers: A Year of Wisdom From Your Favorite Neighbor” 2017 Calendar.

By January 4, they had stopped tearing off new messages and had completely disregarded the stupid thing.

And once more, a valiant attempt at raising two respectable daughters gives way to what will now certainly be a life of crime, intermittent jail time, and ZERO wisdom from some guy who died years before they were even born. God only knows why I try these things.

So, for months, Mr. Rogers and his infinite wisdom were stuck in time—January 2017 to be exact; languishing behind piles of mail, school work, and the ever-changing menagerie of periodicals that moved about the island in our kitchen on a weekly basis.

Weeks later, I don’t know when it was…after a bad day at work, perhaps…after another injury playing in the world-class competitive company softball league…or maybe it was during a commercial break of another family episode of “I wish I never had a sister!”….but at some point….I took Mr. Rogers and his daily wisdom out of purgatory and started tearing off the pages.

I quickly realized that his messages weren’t for my kids. They were for me. As the months went by, I saved specific days that I liked, or that had particular resonance with me at a given point in time. Most have been thrown away. But some still litter the floor of my car.

A few are still floating around our house.

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When you transition to something new in life…don’t you think that it’s always going to be awesome? We have this preconceived notion that the new experience will be the best…………ever!

A new job!  New friends, new coworkers, new experiences. Learning new skills, building your network—an opportunity to shine! Time to make a difference! Hmm. The new systems kind of suck. There goes my autonomy. I actually kind of enjoyed getting home for dinner a few nights a week. 

I’m getting married!  What a wedding! The honeymoon was phenomenal! Dual purchasing power. This new team can’t be stopped! Your mother is coming over how many times a week? Your deadbeat brother wants us to loan him how much money? You think THAT is a fair division of household chores? What are you crazy…you can’t front-load the dishwasher!?

A new child!  Kids are so worth it. They’re so cute! We love having the time off to spend as a new (or growing) family. All of those shower gifts are coming in so handy. We are so lucky to have great family and friends. What? We’re out of coffee again?! We’ve got a def-con 5 level blowout all over the back seat of the car. Teething…terrible two’s (and three’s….and….). Well, we’re only as healthy as the sickest kid in the entire elementary school!!! Teenagers….

What would Mr. Rogers say to that? 

Transitions are seldom smooth.

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There are dozens of more quotes that I’ve tucked away. 

About creativity: “Children’s play is rather the stuff of most future inventions. Think how many people played about going to the moon before that was ever a reality. Let your imagination help you to know the truth about your identity.” 

About patience. Thought. Tough times. Good ones. And how to manage through it all.

Because, in the end. what is life but constant transition? Whether it’s something as monumental as a new spouse, a new child, a new house, or a new job; or something as small as a new pet, school, sport, activity, vacation, friend, colleague, teammate, or boss. We’re always changing. Always transitioning.

You can either find the bad in every situation, or find the good. (As my dentist said to me early this morning about something totally unrelated… “Anyone who’s looking for a fight can find one.”) The same can be said about people looking for a dark cloud or a silver lining.

In reality, transitions end up being a bit of both. Exciting but challenging. Fun but scary. The best (at times), and the worst (at times). It doesn’t do you a whole bunch of good to focus on the bad.

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There is a great saying…and a great story – both of which have debatable connections to truth/reality – that I’ll share with you:

The first is….that the Chinese word for “crisis” is comprised of two characters: one representing“danger” and the other representing “opportunity.” Whether it’s true or not matters little.

The obvious point is that you can either choose to look at something new….something unexpected….a crisis of some sort, as a danger to your mind, your emotions, your state of being, and your situation in life; OR you can look at it as an opportunity to do something different, take a chance, make an improvement, or learn a new perspective. 

And the second is about Fred Rogers himself:

Mr. Rogers taped his children’s show at a public TV station in Pittsburgh—starting in 1968 and ending in 2001, two years before he died. One night after taping, he went out into the parking lot and found that his car had been stolen.

Western Pennsylvania was in an uproar. Who would do such a thing? Stealing Mr. Rogers’ car?!?! Have these evil people no souls???

Local media outlets covered the story and made it a part of the evening news.

A few days later, Mr. Rogers emerged from another taping and stepped into the parking lot. There was his car, in pristine condition, in the same spot as he left it. The door was open…and he found this note:

“If we had known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”

For a mild-mannered, cardigan-wearing softy, Mr. Rogers was a pretty powerful guy.

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