I began my day at work listening to an episode of the podcast Finding Fred, an in depth study of Mr. Rogers hosted by Carvell Wallace, ultimately listening to the first 3 in the series. Wallace opens the series by posing the rhetorical question “Are you a good person?” Perhaps this question drew me in, because it is something that I wonder about myself everyday. Lately, I have come to believe that questions of personal value and worth have a great deal to do with the story that you tell yourself. Mr. Rogers core message of “I like you just the way you are,” is not one that I ever remember receiving from loved ones, specifically from my mother and father. I received an entirely different message from them, and it ended up being the story I told myself for most of my life. I had been telling myself their story, which makes me pretty sad, if I am being honest. Now, at 39, when I ask myself whether I am a good person, the answer is all mixed up–the new story that I am trying to tell myself, with the old story that never belonged to me. It seems like it should be easier just to shed it all, but unfortunately, after living with it for so long, my history is all tied up with it, and with the manifestations of living a life thinking that I didn’t have value, when it’s not true at all.
I wonder why I never took Mr. Rogers seriously when I was younger, and why it has taken this seemingly boundless renaissance of his work in the current day for me to take him seriously. Perhaps I never saw him when I needed to, or simply saw him too late, after early onset cynicism and distrust set in. Experiencing him in this podcast so far (and, I haven’t seen the movie that is out yet) has been humbling. Hearing stories of kindness and acceptance from those acquainted with him, and the attention he gave, and the respect he gave, and his belief in the goodness in everyone, even when it was clear–especially when it was clear–a persons goodness had been buried in pain and suffering and were living in a dark shadow… Well, crying while driving is one of my things. Nothing beats tooling around the country side of town in a semi with red, wet eyes.