Saturday, October 19, 2013

In the Neighborhood

The documentary class that I wrote about a few weeks ago, well, it's become a vital part of my life now.  I look forward to Friday afternoons and cannot think of anything that might cause me to stray from the path that leads to the college library at the appointed time.

We've already been treated to some great films.  We don't get clues beforehand, just show up.  My friend Miriam always gets there early and saves me a seat.  That kindness comes in handy because I come to the doc class directly after a quick lunch, having spent the morning in my writing class.  There's nothing that could make me feel more like an eighteen year-older than racing across a college campus to get to another class. Somehow, it was all so easier back in those days.  For now, I need that good friend who saves me the seat!

Yesterday's selection was extra-special.  With all the worries that are currently plaguing the country and touching our daily lives, Lily thought it might be good to see a film that was just about as carefree and flawless as one can get.  She was spot on when she suggested that we sit back and enjoy what she promised would be a film about goodness and purity, light and easy.  Her choice for this mission, "Me and Mister Rogers" a seventy nine minute love note produced by a team of brothers who befriended the PBS icon and found their lives transformed from the first moment.

In our usual fashion, the film was followed by group discussion. The discussions are an exciting and oftentimes exhilarating part of the experience.  This is a group of highly educated and opinionated people.  Not only do they share a love for the genre, but they also share a love of freedom of speech usually resulting in different and oftentimes passionate presentations of ideas.  One can only imagine those presentations last week when we viewed a film on the rise and fall of Elliot Spitzer in New York.  But this week's after-discussion was very different.  We were talking about a person who apparently never did anything wrong in his whole life.  Or at least, we would never believe it if we were told otherwise.  The world's most beloved neighbor, Mr. Rogers.

I don't think mine were the only tear-filled eyes.  Fred Rogers.  Mr. Roger's Neighborhood.  How can I ever, ever thank you enough.  Mr. Fred Rogers, now dearly departed Mr. Rogers.  Not a day went by without his voice softly invading our living just the right time of day.  Were you a babysitter? If you were, you were the most perfect babysitter.  Were you a teacher?  A preacher?  Or, were you just a good friend, one who really and truly believed that  deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex, that respect for each other is paramount and that we're all just fine, just the way we are?

I'll never forget the tone of voice, the gentle movements as a grown man sat on a bench to tie the laces on his tennis sneakers, his white shirt, his tie and his cardigan sweaters that his own grandmother had made especially for him.  He soothed the children as they readied for bed.  He told us all that we would be fine and that we would be loved no matter how bad our days were or how scary the night ahead.  He told us that our bodies were fancy, just like his, and talked about respect for ourselves and for others.  Not one word ever had to be censored and we hung on every one, distinctly feeling that Mr. Rogers was speaking to each of us personally. To this day, I miss Mr.Fred Rogers and I hope that he is in the best neighborhood in Heaven with every day beautiful. Somehow, I'm sure he is and I'm sure that they are, just as he so richly deserves.

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”
― Fred Rogers

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