In the past three weeks, there has been a dramatic shift in my perspective. My incredibly stressful class is over, I went on vacation for two weeks, I was invited to read and study with a Lay Marianist community, and I developed a deep love for Mr. Rogers.
These four things have changed me in a profound way. But the thing that has had the biggest impact on me, is my newfound love of Fred Rogers.
In a world where we see so much hate, destruction, and death, this calm and gentle soul ushered generations of kids into a safe space, where they knew they were loved and cherished, and they were able to just be kids.
Going back to watch his work as an adult at first seemed silly. Why would I do such a thing? There were plenty of other shows that I could watch.
It all started in May. I had been suffering a wicked bout of insomnia for four months at this point, and I had watched 17 seasons of Law & Order SVU, and every episode of The Great British Bake-off that Netflix had to offer. At this point I knew I needed something different, but I also knew none of my shows (looking at you Eric Kripke, and Shonda) would be back until the fall. I was running on empty. Getting 4 hours of sleep a night because my mind was racing at the prospect of not getting a perfect grade after all of my hard work… or editing papers that just came in so late I had to stay up all night to get it done. How could I possibly find a show that would help me to get even just one more hour of sleep?
I started scrolling through Amazon Prime and saw that kind and familiar face that I had seen as a kid. I chuckled to myself and kept scrolling, but something told me to go back.
I hit play, and those familiar first notes trickled through the speaker… “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood…”. The first night I watched 5 hours of Mr. Rogers and let me tell you what- that dude tackled some real issues in his day. I sat in bed, in awe of his courage and amazed that he could do that all with a slow melodic voice. And don’t even get me started on the puppets- how does one person have that many voices stored up in their imagination?
As the days went on, I slowly made it through fewer episodes- that sweet melody lulling me to sleep, or Fred Rogers’ intelligent and kind voice helping me to face some big scary things that we see in the news even still today (who knew he would be so timeless?). This man gave me back my sanity. I started sleeping 5, 6, and 7 hours a night, worrying less, and making better use of my time.
I got an A in both of those really crazy classes. My hard work paid off, and I then got to go on vacation with my family to celebrate my parent’s 30th anniversary. I downloaded a book on my kindle about Mr. Rogers, and set off to learn more about this person that had already changed my life by helping me to sleep a little easier at night.
I recently turned 26. Roughly 3 days before that happened, I woke up at complete peace in my life. I had established a routine that I was following (morning meditation and scripture, carefully planning my weeks, adding in chores and getting dressed up in the mornings). I was swearing less (not completely… yet, but I’m hopeful lol). I was being far less judgmental. And I finally felt like I had nothing left to prove. I was the most alive I had been in years.
As I reflected on this series of events I realized that for the first time in my life, I have had a deep and profound conversion. Through the gentle care of a television neighbor, I have come to see that God is in the slow moments. He doesn’t want me to rush. He doesn’t want me to be stressed or in emotional pain.
I decided I was going to be like Mr. Rogers, and my life changed dramatically, for the better. My time seems to stretch endlessly, and my days are filled with joy and gratitude. My errands don’t take nearly as long, I forget things a lot less frequently these days, and I am completely at peace.
6 months ago, I would have told you I didn’t even remember what peace was. Today, I can’t remember what it was like to live in a complete world of stress. It is so crazy to me that I would let my need to prove I was the best, I was worthy and I was what they wanted after all, slowly kill my joy.
I was worthy all along. I have gifts and talents that no one else on this earth possesses in the exact measure that I have them. Sure- they aren’t great big magical things, but they are my talents. I taught a one year old how to say cock-a-doodle-doo. I also taught him that if he throws hummus on the ground, we have to clean it up. I lead music for a holy hour that sent chills down my spine as the students I was playing for sang the bridge to the song by themselves. I wrote a thank you note that established what will be a life long connection.
These things are all seemingly small. But in my life- these are ways that I met God in my day to day interactions.
And I never want to stop. I want to take each day as Mr. Rogers would have taken it- with grace and patience, stopping to recognize that sometimes the small things are what make us the best people we can be.
If you had the opportunity to live a life with less stress and more joy would you?
It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood of joy and peace. I’ve always wanted a neighbor just like you! Let’s make the most of this beautiful day, since you’re still here reading this, I might as well say- won’t you be my neighbor?