You might have seen that I ended up in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last weekend, talking about the Lost Girl‘s children and our trip to the museum. I was honored to be able to contribute.
It’s no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I absolutely love the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. It was a dream come true to be able to write about the Carnegie Museums for a Pittsburgh newspaper. I love everything about Pittsburgh except the driving. Living in Steubenville without a car for so many years, Pittsburgh and the museums were the pot of gold at the end the rainbow. When we had next to nothing, in that tiny ridiculous apartment in the worst part of LaBelle, Adrienne would watch season after season of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood with our Amazon Prime account. She would memorize the episodes and work Mr. Rogers’s gentle platitudes into our conversations. I would watch that episode where Fred goes to see the dinosaurs, and the one where he goes to “the neighborhood museum” to teach children about the fine arts, and I would long to go there myself.
Then we got my first car, which I named the Neighborhood Trolley, and soon enough we got a Carnegie membership, and I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to drop everything and drive for an hour, so I can sit across from the Van Gogh or a psittacosaurus and just look at interesting things. Going to the museum is my therapy. It’s a life saver. That’s why I thought to take the Lost Girl’s children there when they’ve had such a difficult year.
After I wrote the article, I went back to life as usual– the winter slump. I was miserable about not being able to drive for a bit longer. I was depressed about everything, because it’s January.
And then on Tuesday, I started getting emails.
My editor was forwarding me emails he’d received, with people who were touched by the article and wanted to help the Lost Girl. The Lost Girl is in the process of moving into her new rental. This weekend they are packing up. They have to pay a giant fee to get the water turned on before they can officially move, but other than that they are ready to sprint for their lives. This place could change everything if only they can keep the rent up. It’s a whole detached house instead of a tiny rowhouse apartment. The rent is very high. It will be touch and go every month. But it was the only place she could find. The landlord is even going to offer them a rent-to-own lease, if they can keep up on this lease for several months. I passed along this information as best I could. Some people are mailing checks.
And then I got an email from the Carnegie museum– or rather from their representative.
I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that somebody from the Carnegie museum would read about their museum in the paper.
They said they’d like to talk on the phone with me, and I made an appointment. The next thing I knew I was babbling to a museum representative as if I was talking to my celebrity crush.
I found myself telling her about those Mr. Rogers episodes and how much it meant to me to see the Impressionists and the dinosaurs in person.
The museum representative wanted to thank me for showing people, through my writing, that all children need to experience the wonderful things in the world around them. She mentioned the discounted family membership, which I knew about since I had one. She also mentioned and would like my readers to know that Pennsylvania residents with a financial hardship can get an even more drastic discount to visit the museum affordably. She asked for an address, because some people who worked at the museum also wanted to donate to help the Lost Girl. And she said that the museum was also going to give a gift membership to the Lost Girl’s family. The membership would get them into the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History, as well as the Carnegie Science Center and the Andy Warhol museum, free for a whole year.
I hung up and told the Lost Girl, who cried with excitement. She went to the Carnegie Science center just once on a school field trip as a child, and she’s been wanting to go back ever since. The boys hadn’t stopped talking about the dinosaurs since they visited with me.
I was overwhelmed.
My veteran readers know about my very favorite story arc of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood— the one I innocently accepted as my a guiding principle for my whole life when I was a neuro-atypical preschooler who took everything too seriously. I love the story arc where Lady Aberlin and X the Owl discover that some vegetables have been pilfered from their garden by an old goat. The goat explains, in a language composed entirely of silly bleats, that he’s come from Northwood in desperation because they don’t have any food to eat. At the order of King Friday, the neighbors declare an “all-out effort,” to grow food to send to Northwood to save their neighbors. They turn the whole Neighborhood of Make Believe into a vast, colorful garden. Daniel Striped Tiger tries to join the effort by planting a can of vegetable soup, to save the Northwood citizens time in cooking and canning their own. He discovers that cans can’t grow. He despairs because now he doesn’t have a gift to bring. But Bob Dog suggests that he go to Northwood along with the food shipment, to play with the Northwood children and become their friends.
“Friendship,” Mr. Rogers told me gravely at the end of that television visit, “Is food for the spirit.”
And I took it to heart.
I believe that.
I believe that when someone has a need, their neighbors ought to declare an all-out effort to respond to that need. Those who have a garden should plant extra food. Those whose gardens fail to grow should bring their friendship. Those with a car should offer rides. Those with a museum should contribute dinosaurs and paintings. You’ve got to feed people however you can out of whatever you were given. That is the firmest and dearest belief I hold. But it’s hard to keep faith in your convictions when the world is so cruel. Whenever I can see an all-out effort in action, it makes me happier than anything else.
I am so overwhelmed with gratitude for the friendship the Lost Girl has shown me, and for the opportunity to feed her children’s spirits with a trip to the museum, and with the kindness shown to us by my readers and their all-out effort.
I’m deeply grateful.
I’m glad to see what will happen next.
The photograph is of the atrium at the Carnegie museum in Pittsburgh, by Piotrus, used in accordance with Creative Commons attribution share and share alike.
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross, The Sorrows and Joys of Mary, and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.