Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Remembering a neighbor: 10 years later

I grew up watching PBS. Sesame Street and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood hold a very special, almost sacred place in my heart. They are more than just shows I enjoyed watching as a child, they are a part of my childhood, a part of me. I remember sitting in my grandmother's living room, singing along with Kermit and Ernie, counting in Spanish, rushing out to tell my grandmother "the people want to talk to you!" during pledge drives.

Ten years ago today, the world lost a very special neighbor. I'll never forget the moment I found out. I was getting ready for school and I turned the news on as I always did. Over a stock clip of the always-smiling Mr. Rogers were superimposed the words "Remembering a Neighbor." I sat down in shock. As a senior in high school, it had been years since I had actually watched the show, but all the memories came rushing back in a wave. Mr. Rogers visiting the crayon factory. Mr. Rogers teaching me how to spell "friend." Mr. Rogers promising me I could never go down the drain. The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

When I got to school, my friends gathered at my locker as they usually did. (Mine was located at the corner of both Senior halls and thus a prime central location for morning chit chat.) "Did you hear about Mr. Rogers?" we asked one another, sad-eyed. My friend Nick retrieved his track jacket from his locker. Shrugging it onto his shoulders, he looked heavenward, said "This is for you, Fred," and zipped it up to his chin and halfway back down.

My favorite Mr. Rogers story ever is about the time he had his car stolen. After the story appeared on the news, the car was returned 48 hours later to the same spot, with a note on the dash: "If we had known it was yours, we never would have taken it."

Mr. Rogers taught us so many important lessons, about love, about kindness, about believing in ourselves. But most importantly, he taught us to be helpers.

In this post-9/11, post-Newtown world, in the face of unthinkable tragedies, let us be helpers. Let us be helping hands, listening ears, kind hearts. Let us be good neighbors.

Won't you be my neighbor?