Monday, August 18, 2014

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. . .

I found this meme on Pinterest, and it is so true.

As a child, I loved Mr. Rogers. It wasn't necessarily the shows'  respective messages, but how he delivered them. I sensed the man's goodness early on. You knew he would never forget to feed those fish. As a latch-key kid who was often plagued by anxiety,  I craved that reassurance and watched that show longer after most kids my age, 10 or 11, had outgrown it.

My love for Mr. Rogers wasn't just about sensitivity. It was about style. I had a funky aesthetic as a kid. When I was in fourth grade, I would pair a twirly mini-skirt with an oversized multi-colored sweater and tights, even in the summer. Then I would put on some nice, clunky shoes. For instance, I had some red and white saddle shoes, a great buy from Payless, that I favored at the time.

I would top this look with a hairstyle of my own invention. I would wear the bulk of my long, dishwater blond hair down but I would part my overgrown bangs in the middle, fastening the hair in ponytails on either side of my face. I would tug on the hair until my rubber bands made it stick out in a satisfyingly Pippi Longstocking fashion.

Yes, I had a nascent punk rock style that has changed little over the years. And I had a sense that Mr. Rogers had it going on. Those sweaters, in hip colors like bright red and mustard, were perfect--casual but impeccable. And how cool that he changed into a comfy sweater and Keds when he got down to the business of make-believe, a grown man dressing a like a teenager after shedding his confining suit and dress shoes.

I liked the way Mr. Rogers was somehow both retro and fashion-forward. And without a hint of self-consciousness or irony. A few years later, we would see grunge icons like Kurt Cobain donning knitted sweaters, and the members of the band Weezer in the "Buddy Holly" video wearing 1950s-style cardigans.

Of course, clothes are somewhat superficial. The more I have learned about Mr. Rogers insides, though, the way he thought, the more I love him. As a journalist and a parent, I am keenly aware that all of the bad and sad and violent and warped news of the world can make us soul-sick.

Mr. Rogers had a pro-active approach to countering the helpless angst fostered by a media barrage. This is what he Rogers said about those times when the unthinkable happens--when the Twin Towers topple to the ground, when there is a shooting at a school, or when forces like global warming seem to threaten our very existence. It is genius advice, perfectly indicative of an ordained minister with a gentle Pennsylvania upbringing.

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers--so many caring people in this world."—Fred Rogers

Look for the helpers! Every parent and teacher and kid needs to hear these words, and to follow these directions when the fit hits the shan.

Want to hear more of the late Mr. Roger's simple but profound words? Check out this remarkable musical mix of some of Fred Rogers' most benevolent moments, each aimed at inspiring thoughtfulness, creativity and confidence in kids. Between the wistful keyboard and Fred's saint-like demeanor, this song just might make you go misty.

He's right here, too. It is good to be curious.

--Sarah Torribio