Thank you, Mr. Rogers.

I’ve been feeling a lot of gratitude for Fred Rogers recently.

Maybe it’s because I’ve made it a new “life rule” to withdraw from online interaction that is characterized by contentiousness and dialogue-dominating personalities. I shut down comments on this blog because it became taxing to deal with hostile voices there. And I left an online community that I’d enjoyed for years because I could feel myself being provoked into a kind of dialogue that I want to avoid. I don’t mind criticism; in fact, I seek it out. But I’m allergic to criticism that is delivered with arrogance, condescension, or a lack of respect and grace. Am I thin-skinned? Perhaps. But I’d rather be thin-skinned than hard-hearted. I suspect that I’ve been spoiled by the blessing of good friends, caring family, and teachers who knew how to speak the truth in love.

I think I also learned at an early age to care about gracious conversation from Fred Rogers.

From Mr. Rogers, I learned a sort of liturgy of friendship: The way he came home and took off his shoes suggested that he was at ease with you, that you were welcome, a familiar and special guest.

He spoke so slowly, and he paused, allowing more “dead air” than any other show host, giving me time to think.

I loved Amy Hollingsworth’s book The Simple Faith of Mr. Rogers.

In that book, Hollingsworth writes,

He knew that silence leads to reflection, that reflection leads to appreciation, and that appreciation looks about for someone to thank: “I trust that they will thank God, for it is God who inspires and informs all that is nourishing and good,” he once said.

She also writes:

He taught me that taking one’s time, especially in relationships, allows the other person to know he or she is worth the time.

I also loved the PBS special that aired recently: Mr. Rogers & Me.

Today, my friend Dyana Herron posted this video on her blog. And then, of course, I discovered that people everywhere were posting it on Facebook and Twitter and all over the place.

Forgive me if you’ve already seen this twelve times, but I must, out of appreciation and loyalty, join the parade. Sit back, press “Play,” and enjoy… neighbor. …


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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.