FOR OVER 30 years, children’s television host Mister Rogers came into the homes of millions via our television sets and told each of us one of the most important things a person could say to us.
“I like you just the way you are.”
There are over 900 episodes of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which means he told us he liked us just as we are approximately 905 times.
I was one of these people. I was born in 1983 and can vividly remember watching Mister Rogers on PBS while visiting my grandparents in Nashville.
In my mid-30s, I was reintroduced to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” through what seemed to be a national reemergence of popularity for the late children’s television host. A movie was made, a documentary was released, and so were a few podcasts, among other things.
Jumping on the trend, I downloaded a podcast called “Finding Fred” that delved into the life, thinking, and work of Rogers. I immediately fell in love with all the things I had felt were so uninteresting to me as a child.
For example, the way he talked. He slowed his cadence to make sure that children could understand him better and feel that they were in a conversation with him and not being talked to.
The puppets he used helped children identify with different emotions and personality traits. He also spoke about adult topics, such as death, assassination, and race. He helped children to be able to process and understand these difficult topics.
Finally came the real tear-jerker. The thing that, even now, makes me tear up just writing it. That fact that Mister Rogers liked us just as we are. We didn’t need to be anything else but ourselves. We were loved and accepted just for being us—such a simple statement with profound meaning.
Imagine, if you will, someone telling you that they like you just as you are—genuinely meaning that you are loved completely through all your pain, suffering, joy, weariness, flaws, and imperfections.
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with the need to be anything but ourselves, Rogers wanted us to know that being ourselves was all we needed to be.
It’s important to note that Rogers wasn’t the originator of this message, and he wouldn’t want to be. As an ordained Presbyterian minister, he learned it from a much higher power who calls us daily to remember that he, too, loves us just as we are. God loves us so much that he sacrificed us through Jesus’ death.
What a truly wonderful and humbling feeling that we are loved just as we are, in our brokenness and flaws. We are embraced and reminded that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I’d like to think that Mister Rogers knew the seeds of acceptance he was planting. He knew they would grow and bloom long after his work was done.
I am relistening to the podcast now and being reminded of how significant the impact was from his little show on public television. I am also reminded of just how important kindness is and how vital being kind and present in the moment is to the very essence of being human.
We should all take time to remember the power of kindness and accept each other just as we are. And remember that God’s love is gracious, and He loves us just the way we are. GN