It’s Easter morning. To some that is another Sunday, others with children possibly a day filled with Easter baskets, egg hunts and family meals. To me, it’s very personal. It’s a day that I realize something very big and very personal was done for me. It would have been done for me if I was the only person on earth, and because, obviously, I am not, it was done personally for each and every one of us. This means a lot to me. It makes me realize that I am important, loved, and worth something. I don’t always remember this. There are many times that I feel unloved and alone, unworthy of anything and hurting because of this. I know many others feel the same way. I also know that I have failed at reaching many of those who are feeling this way, often because of my own selfishness and my own pain. It is a statement of fact. It doesn’t make it right or wrong, it just is. It makes me sad to think of this.
I am currently sitting alone at home as I am writing this. There are many reasons for that also, and Sundays can be very difficult for this reason. This morning I turned on the TV as I was eating my breakfast and came upon an incredible program. In fact, I think it’s very appropriate that this program was playing this morning, because it is a program about a man who has done so much for so many people, very much like what I alluded to in the first paragraph. The program is, “Mr. Rogers and Me.”
I don’t know how many of you will remember Mr. Rogers. To me, he is a childhood friend and my children will also say the same thing. He filled many of my mornings as a child, and again as a young parent with love, and the incredible feeling of being important, safe, and someone who was worthy of these things. It’s the reason I filled the mornings of my children with this, and hope that the mornings of my grandchildren can also be filled with this. Mr. Rogers was the epitome of caring. I don’t know how to say that any better. Many of us remember things like the way he came in and changed from his suit jacket and shoes to his hand-knitted sweater (made by his mother I just found out) and his blue sneakers, how he spoke softly and slowly, showed us so many things and talked to us about difficult situations and how to handle them. He took us on field trips around the neighborhood and showed us how the post office, trains, and so many other things worked. He discussed difficult situations children may find them selves in such as bullies, divorce, death of a family member or friend, and so many things I can’t even remember. I just know that the time I spent in his presence was safe, secure, and loving.
As I watch this documentary, I am learning that this is exactly the person he was off the air also. I am hearing stories of how he showed up at birthday parties for children and created clocks out of paper plates and taught a young man how to tell time, or how he made a very special program with another women discussing divorce and how to talk with children about it, causing all the adults in the audience to stand up and share their experiences with this and how they felt. I am learning how at the end of his life, dying of cancer, he continued to support and encourage his own family even though he was in a lot of pain and experiencing depression. I am awed by this man and his life, as I was awed as a child at his presence.
I am also finding myself reflecting on my life, my career, and the many things I have experienced over the years and feeling like I have fallen short. I know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, and have often talked about this to my own children and grandchildren. I think it’s more than that though. I believe that my change of careers to teaching was a spiritual thing, a calling to ministry. I know I did this very well for years, believing that I was to be more than just a math teacher, but that I was to be a presence to these young people, a safe place, a role-model, someone they could trust. I am realizing these past two years that I lost track of that a bit. There are some good reasons for this, but hearing how Mr. Rogers stayed who he was even in the most difficult time of his life, makes me realize that I have fallen short. I have allowed life circumstances to creep in and change the person I was when I started this to a person who allowed painful, and hard experiences to change how I viewed my ministry.
I need to change that. I need to find my way back to the person I was when I started this journey, I need to grow from these experiences and become stronger, not allow them to make me bitter, angry or introverted. I need to find a way to share what I know to be true about life, love, and learning, and share this with my students to help them become strong people who can sustain whatever life is bringing their way.
I need to remember my Savior, who gave everything He had for me, and Mr. Rogers, who gave everything he was to all of us.