After 2 Years of Censorship— & Trying to Help Save Lives — I Just Needed to Hear Mr. Rogers’ Voice
Dedicated to the healthcare heroes around the world—many who risked their livelihoods to save lives
“We hope you’ll enjoy these books for many years to come, “ read the card from my son and daughter-in-law that accompanied the present they gave me for Mother’s Day, 2020.
When the gift arrived, we were in the early days of the pandemic, and COVID was raging across the country. I was working as part of the communications team for the newly formed Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance (FLCCC). My kids knew I would cherish their gift every single day. But they could not have imagined how much.
Over the years, I made no secret of my unending admiration for the man who authored the set of books waiting for me in the box. These books featured the wisdom, wit, advice and life lessons of Mr. Rogers. Yes, the one and only Fred Rogers.
I have adored Fred Rogers since the first time I saw his PBS program when my son was about two years old. As I began to watch the program regularly with my son, I became aware that I had never before seen on television a gentler, kinder, more compassionate, wise, loving and sweeter soul than his.
Mr. Rogers, I believe, had an extraordinary impact on my son and daughter in their toddler and pre-school years. They were drawn to his soft voice, his calm demeanor, his curiosity, his neighborhood of diverse characters, and his personal connection to them as he looked right into the camera to make eye contact with them as he spoke. I was so grateful to PBS for providing such a dear and kind friend for them that they (and I) could visit with daily.
My now 2-year-old Mr. Rogers books sit prominently on my living room coffee table. I look to them often to be inspired, to be comforted, and to find answers to some of life’s most difficult questions. The books are becoming dog-eared of late. Like so many people across the country and the world, I have needed extra soothing in the wake of the pandemic. And I remain so deeply troubled by those who have needlessly perished due to the unconscionable, unrelenting suppression of peer-reviewed science which pointed the way out of this pandemic over one year ago. I have cried more often than I want to admit.
Mr. Rogers’ enlightened counsel gives me the comfort I need when I feel powerless to help…still. So I read through Mr. Roger’s words and wisdom on ways to prevail against these still harsh, buffeting winds.
The following quotes of Fred Rogers rested in my heart today:
“It’s not the honors and prizes and the fancy outsides that ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our being is very firm.”
“When I was a boy, I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.”
“The values we care about the deepest, and the movements within society that support those values, command our love. When those things that we care about so deeply become endangered, we become enraged. And what a healthy thing that is! Without it, we would never stand up and speak out for what we believe.”
As I read Mr. Rogers’ words, their uncanny relevance to the work of the brave FLCCC physicians and all other health care professionals just trying to save lives around the world came into clear focus. Here were the writings of a man whose spirit and soul I have loved for two generations…spinning stories of these brave soldiers he never knew, a plague he never experienced, but who he described with astonishing precision.
First, Mr. Rogers points out that it is not possible to trust another who is not a truth teller; and that truth and trust are inexorably intertwined. Then, he imparts his definition of strength as that which calls upon us to act for the sake of humanity. And finally, he implores us to speak out and take action against that which is morally reprehensible to us.
This is who these healthcare providers are at their core — people whose relationship with scientific integrity is incorruptible…whose devotion to humanity and the sanctity of human life has led them to commit themselves to saving others —all while putting themselves at tremendous risk. These men and women are upstanders—not bystanders — unafraid to rise against that which they know is immoral, inequitable or unjust.
Like I loved Mr. Rogers, I love these monumental healthcare heroes in the very same way. These are historic champions who possess almost a single soul, an essence, a being of unique goodness that they share so willingly with the world. Both Fred Rogers and today’s healthcare heroes are models for our children to emulate. They use their brilliance, insight, knowledge, ethics, understanding, courage and humility in service to a world so desperately in need of healing.
In times of upheaval, calamity or disaster, Mr. Rogers always advised to, “Look for the helpers. There are always helpers.”
I know where the helpers are. So do you.