During my drive into work yesterday (2/27/03) I was suddenly transported back in time to wonderful discoveries of my childhood. A world full of incredible people and things. A world of rich experience, delivered through that portal called television from Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.
What caused this time warp? The news I had just heard on the radio: Mister Roger’s had passed away.
Sad news, and yet another reminder that time marches on and my past is forever in the past, and growing more distant. Sometimes I like to revisit the music, movies, and books of days gone by. Just to help my inner child quiet down a bit. Mister Rogers was a strong part of my life, right along with Rags and his friends on the Patchwork Family show (no one seems to remember that one but me!), Sesame Street, the New Zoo Revue, and other great children’s shows.
I was an imaginative kid and those programs were a great escape for my brain. They influenced me in many ways.
Did you ever meet someone you could only describe as “neat”? — Like “Man, he was a really neat guy!” — I have, I’ve met neat people, and I mean really neat. I never met Mister Rogers but he was my definition of a neat person. Someone who is kind, friendly, who understands you and can show you some really cool stuff about our world!
There was a man who attended the same church as my family while I was groing up, he used to stop me outside after church and show me a magic trick. He had a new one every Sunday, and each was delivered with such wonder and joy on his part. I’ll tell you what, that man has never left my mind. I remember him fondly. And I’ll never forget the deep sadness I felt years later when I heard that he had killed himself. I wondered why such a beautiful person would want to die. What could have been so wrong in his life? And if he was so sad, why would he share only goodness and love with the rest of us?
He was one of many Mister Rogers in my life. Only his story had a sad ending. The real Mister Rogers has passed along of natural causes after a long, fullfilling life. I want to have an affect on people so that they will want to go on in life. These neat people have had that affect on me, and that’s why I look forward to a bright life of joy and experience, of wonder.
What is the key to being a neat person? Is there some deep understanding we must have about human nature? Do we need a degree? Hardly. Well, there is hardly the need for high education, but maybe human understanding is intuitive, maybe some of us are just born with some knowledge built in. An instinct of sorts, or an insight.
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I don’t buy it. I think it depends on the dog. I’m still reshaping and developing, trying to make myself the best I can be. It’s a long road, and I’m grateful for Mister Rogers, and other neat people who have influenced my life.
What does it take to be a neat guy? I’m working on it. Maybe we all can.