In the garden of your mind...
I've discovered a trick for feeling better about myself: watch old episodes of Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Seriously. There's something about watching it that makes me feel better.
Of course, I also feel a little silly. For all my cynical heart, it's hard not to smile with him, not to respond in kind when he greets me, zipping up that silly sweater. I feel foolish, waving back at him; I also feel a little bit freer, a little bit more relaxed. I'm alone, by myself, no one to judge or criticize me. If I want to talk back to him, why shouldn't I?
Sometimes my comments are a bit mean, or silly. It's hard to resist the temptation. When Mister Rogers visits a weather station and watches them fill up a weather balloon, and is told they are filling it with hydrogen, not helium, I imagine a very different Mister Rogers, one who talks in a car showroom voice: "Hydrogen, you say? Well, I'll be. Y'know, I think it's time for Ol' Fred to light up one of his stogies, let me get out my lighter--" Sometimes my imagination is an awful thing.
And still I can't be truly mean or nasty to Fred Rogers, even in my living room, even in my mind. It just doesn't feel right. I mean, if there was any human being who I would nominate for sainthood, he's it. Everything he seemed to be on that show, from every report I've ever read, from anyone who ever knew him, that's who he really was: someone of bottomless kindness, compassion and understanding; someone who took joy in life and was entirely unashamed to let it show; someone who wasn't blind to life's injustices and pain, but somehow never let it dominate his spirit.
Maybe that's the real humiliating thing about watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood: he shames us. Watching him, I can feel defeated by my own inability to live a life so free, so reveling in pure joy. And yet I also feel moved to keep trying.