A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through some boxes of photos that I hadn’t touched since our move to Georgia three years ago. It was just before Father’s Day and I wanted to include a few memorable pictures in the card I was sending to my dad. Memories flooded back over me as I look at the snapshots of my life--going camping as a family, visits from my grandparents who lived on the other side of the country, Monday morning pancakes made by my dad on his day off because he was a minister, my dad’s patience as I learned to drive a stick shift in the parking lot of our school next door, celebrating Christmas and my parent’s 60th wedding anniversary in Puerto Rico with my family giving my children a chance to get to know their grandparents as young adults and so much more.
One memory that came back to me was an early morning train ride when I was only four years old. It sticks out in my mind because it was special—the trip was just me and my dad and the purpose was not to get to a destination. I asked my dad to refresh my memory of this event. My grandparents had come by train to visit Oregon where we lived and somehow, there were two unused portions of the tickets. My parents had decided that my dad would use his day off to take me on an adventure. I remember getting up early and leaving the house while it was still dark out. We drove to the train station and boarded. Having breakfast in the dining car with the linen tablecloths, we watched the landscape flow by.
I don’t remember much else about the day. My dad says that we went to a nearby city, got off the train and walked around visiting a book store and then headed back home on the train. I am sure that the reason that this memory has stayed with me is because of the gift of time and presence that my father gave to me that day. It reinforced the belief that I am loved and worthy.
Strong families are built on a foundation of love, and love, as we know, doesn't simply happen. Love takes work - especially when the details of the day-to-day grind seem to crowd out everything else and leave us short on time and sapped of energy. "Making memories" is one way to create a lasting sense of common identity and shared family heritage among the members of our households. What kind of memories are you creating in your family?
I just saw the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and I was deeply struck by Mr. Fred Rogers’ message that being nice is not a weakness; that speaking with care is a thing we do simply because we believe the person we’re talking to is a human being with worth and dignity. He said, “Love is at the root of everything; all learning, all parenting, all relationships-love or the lack of it…The greatest thing that we can do is to let somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.”
Most children growing up in the late 1960s through 2001 watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Since my family didn’t own a television until I was in middle school, I didn’t pay much attention to his show until I had children of my own. Together, my boys and l learned many aspects about the world through watching the show—from learning from mistakes and dealing with fears to how crayons, pretzels and brooms were made. Using simple sets and puppets, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood addressed a wide range of topics including relationships and differences as controversial topics as death, divorcee, race and more.
On one episode in 1969, Rogers quietly made a civil-rights statement on his show, by companionably sharing a wading pool on a hot day with Officer Clemmons, who is black — at a time of segregated pools in much of the country. In the documentary, Director Morgan Neville intercuts this scene with footage of white lifeguards pouring bleach into a pool where black kids were swimming.
Mister Rogers reminded us, in gentle song, that we were special and that he liked us as we were. I want to wield kindness every moment of every day as Fred Rogers did in his life, on his television show, and out in the world. The world is a much scarier place now. Kindness feels like a revolutionary act! I find it challenging as a daily practice, especially like today when someone honked at me and flipped me off as I was looking for the correct exit on my way to the movie theater. Kindness requires me to work hard at having empathy, patience, understanding and a willingness to listen. But I believe that this message is one that we greatly need--to see each other as neighbors and interact with empathy and kindness.