From an old profile of Mister Rogers; a treasure trove of thought-provoking perspective. I could quote the whole thing, but two parts really jumped out at me and resonate with the person I see the man as.
…but right now his patient gray eyes were fixed on the little boy with the big sword, and so he stayed there, on one knee, until the little boy’s eyes finally focused on Mister Rogers, and he said, “It’s not a sword; it’s a death ray.” A death ray! Oh, honey, Mommy knew you could do it….And so now, encouraged, Mommy said, “Do you want to give Mister Rogers a hug, honey?” But the boy was shaking his head no, and Mister Rogers was sneaking his face past the big sword and the armor of the little boy’s eyes and whispering something in his ear—something that, while not changing his mind about the hug, made the little boy look at Mister Rogers in a new way, with the eyes of a child at last, and nod his head yes.
We were heading back to his apartment in a taxi when I asked him what he had said.
“Oh, I just knew that whenever you see a little boy carrying something like that, it means that he wants to show people that he’s strong on the outside. I just wanted to let him know that he was strong on the inside, too. And so that’s what I told him. I said, ‘Do you know that you’re strong on the inside, too?’ Maybe it was something he needed to hear.”
It wrenches the heart to imagine this is a source of so much male destruction – inward and outward.
“The connections we make in the course of a life—maybe that’s what heaven is, Tom. We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us—I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.”
As a not-religious person, I love how this builds a bridge from me to someone who is.
The article includes a photo of him with President Clinton, in an exchange that is of a type I deeply miss from our current administration. Political differences aside, it means a lot to our country to have leaders with a practiced ability to display joy and compassion. We don’t have that anymore, and we’re worse off for it.