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It is my conviction that the youth who are in revolt are being revolted by our failure to know who they really are. They are tired of being enrolled, assigned, programmed, graded and molded from without. … It is a person’s creativity which allows him to make something of himself. It is this natural human creativity for which I have such deep respect. It is this creativity which must be fostered far beyond the five-year-olds. - Fred Rogers to Congress, 1969

Eschatology and Daniel Tiger

written 11/10/2016

In the long arc of the Empty Sky, the world ends lots of times. Maybe it’s local or personal. Sometimes it’s changes in geography and even physics. Occasionally, the perception of the past and present itself shifts. The old world is gone.

And the next morning the sun comes up and the story continues.

Right now there’s a lot going on. Yesterday we got approved for a new apartment. It’s on the other side of town, so it isn’t a long distance move, but it’s going to be a lot of work getting ready in the next month. The landlord wants to show the place starting next week, so I have to clean it and declutter and start packing at the same time.

It’s a little sad because this is the place we brought the baby home, where she learned to roll over and crawl and walk and talk. On the other hand, hopefully I’ll stop thinking I hear the cat all the time.

Besides the move itself, I’m trying to see how fast I can get all of my paperwork in order. I’ve been thinking about it since I need to get a new license anyway, and now that thought process is sped up a little. Better safe than sorry.

There’s a lot to worry about right now, and a lot I can be doing. But this move is a good reminder that small magic can add up. I started working with the local spirits near my new job when I went for the first interview, and I know that helped. I kept building the relationship when I started working. It’s an awful housing market right now, but when my spouse and I asked for help they delivered almost immediately.

None of us has control over the big picture. All of us have control over some small corner, and the whole point of magic is to increase that control. Well, I’m taking that and running with it: wards and charms and protections, blessings and curses, luck and strength to those who need it. More offerings and stronger relationships, that they drop gifts in my lap and open my eyes so I can see them.

It’s hard to focus in on what I can do personally, so I ended up turning to one of my daughter’s favorite shows for advice. On Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, when a big storm damages the neighborhood, the cleanup effort has three steps according to one of my dad role-models, Daniel Striped Tiger: first you help your family, then you help your neighbors, then you help your neighborhood. I think this combines nicely with the reminder to put on my own oxygen mask first – you start in the spheres where you can make the most difference.

Taking care of my family is the biggest thing I can do. My family isn’t just my spouse and kid or any kind of blood family, but it’s the people who know me and whom I know, the people who I know are safe to vent to and who feel the same way about me, even if we don’t always agree or face the same problems. Heartsiblings, best friends, the people who drop everything when you need to talk and vice versa. These people are easy to help because you either know what they need or they’re comfortable telling you what they need. If you’re doing it wrong, they’ll tell you and you’ll listen. That’s family. They’re easier to magic for because they trust you and are open to you and often your wyrd is bound up with theirs in some way. These are the people you’d trust your life to at the end of the world.

It’s You I Like, Mister Rogers

written 6/24/2018

My spouse took me out to see *Won’t You Be My Neighbor?* as a delayed Father’s Day gift, since it just opened in town this weekend. I went in expecting to cry – I cried at the trailer in the middle of the work day – but I was surprised I didn’t sob so much as I wept quietly, almost continually. I read an interview that suggested many people have had that reaction to the trailer in part because *Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood* was aimed at kids young enough that we often don’t remember the show in detail, but we remember the relationship we had with Mr Rogers on an emotional level.

Four years into watching *Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood*, having seen some of the episodes dozens of times, I still find myself occasionally caught off-guard by something that echoes, a series of notes that strikes the feeling of being four and sprawled on my Yaya’s carpet in front of PBS. The Neighborhood of Make Believe is as primal as the Land of the Wild Things in my heart.

The hardest thing for me, and the most important thing I took away, was the glimpses we saw of his self-doubt. He worried in the end whether he was *good enough*, whether he had done enough. If even Fred Rogers wondered if he was a good enough person, how can I blame myself for my self-doubt and the weasels in my head?

If Fred Rogers wasn’t good enough, what chance do any of the rest of us have? So I have to believe that what he did mattered, and I can translate that past those intrusive thoughts, into the knowledge that what we all do matters. What I can do is enough, if I can just do it.

For months and months now I’ve been circling around radical kindness. Being kind has become suspect. (At one point in the documentary they refer to the “backlash” Mr Rogers got in certain circles for telling kids they were special. Because haven’t we learned yet that basic dignity and respect makes for special snowflakes?) More than that, being kind has become *subversive.*

So that’s where I’m trying to approach everything from. What can I do to be kind to the people around me? To my family, to my neighbors, my friends in chat rooms, my coworkers and clients?

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” – Fred Rogers

His show was his calling, and it’s stunning to me as an adult to look at how clearly he saw his work as ministry, as something his God had put into his hands, and how little of that I needed to care about as a kid. I’ve been struggling with some burnout with the UU church, but I just committed to teaching OWL again in the fall. Because my kids may be middle school, but they still need someone to listen when they’re working through the important things going on in their lives, and if I can do that for any of them, then it’s worth it.

I don’t know that I have a *calling*, really, but when I find something that matters, I know I have to hold on with both hands. One of the values I learned as a very small monster was kindness, and I’ve held onto it through a lot of hard times, and I’m still holding it, somehow. And I want to share it, because you’re special and I like you just as you are.

May 24 is the Feast Day of Saint Fred, patron of kindness and good neighbors. It is said in the mystical tradition of a great people that the world rests on the backs of thirty-six men and women. Such is the goodness of these saints that they justify the existence of mankind and cause the great powers to stay their hands when they would otherwise despair of humanity. Furthermore, it is said that these men and women are so humble that they would never believe in their own sainthood, and it is only others who may suspect their true power. It is not given to us to know the minds of the powers that be, but Saint Fred is portrayed as a middle-aged man wearing a sweater, and his miracles are many, seemingly small, and boundlessly good. If the world rested on thirty-six like him, then it is in better hands than we can imagine.
The Hidden Almenac

My Favorite Publications

“The mail was so important to Fred,” Sharapan explained. “When you think about it, he was doing his communicating to a television camera, and wanting to be really helpful, offering meaningful communication to children. But you have no idea who’s on the other side, or how they’re reacting.
“He was offering you a relationship,” she added, “and the letters brought the other side of that relationship.”
‘As always, Fred’: The hidden story of Mister Rogers’ many letters Finding Fred: A Podcast About Being Good Neighbors Can You Say...Hero? What Mister Rogers Can Teach Us About Storytelling Mr. Rogers's Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Kids Hello, Neighbor! Mr. Rogers Parenting Resource Book The Good Neighbor Kindness and Wonder On Becoming Neighbors Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: A Visual History

An exhaustive list of publications by and about Fred Rogers can be found on the Neighborhood Archive:

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