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Who Has Loved You into Being?

A Gratitude Meditation

“What is essential is invisible to the eye,” a line from the children’s book The Little Prince, was a Fred Rogers favorite. Known to millions of children as “Mister Rogers” he navigated the cultural and social issues in America with compassion and insight that were far ahead of his time. In “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” a moving documentary film about Rogers, director Morgan Neville argues that Rogers’ voice is even more relevant and vital now. Rogers insisted that kindness was not naïve but is urgently needed to keep a healthy society.

Underneath his calm demeanor, Rogers was a true radical and now seems even clairvoyant. In one show, King Friday, a puppet, issues a proclamation to build a wall and keep the “undesirables” out. Mister Rogers, however, wanted everyone to live in his neighborhood, regardless of color.

As a child, Rogers was lonely, sickly, and often bullied. His puppets were stand-ins for his wounded inner child. Daniel the striped tiger embodied the vulnerability, insecurity and need to be loved that Rogers experienced. “Love is at the root of everything…or the lack of love,” Rogers told an interviewer. His mission became to help children feel that they mattered, that “someone gives a damn about you, that you are special.” Roger’s message was that it didn’t matter what you looked like or how much money you had, you had value.

The songs that he wrote were ahead of his time as well. In many ways, he anticipated the healing power of Internal Family Systems, a mode of therapy that allows the individual to accept all parts of oneself. Rogers sings, “It’s you I like, every part of you, it’s you yourself, it’s you.” There are many stories of adults coming up to him on the street, thanking him for his message, and for helping them survive a difficult childhood. Rogers also helped children face difficult and angry feelings, death, and tragedy.

Not surprisingly, many people cry at this film. One movie critic speculated that the emotional response is due to the power of radical kindness. The pressure of living in times such as these gets released in the theater as we’re reminded, “oh yes, this is what people can be.” And, “yes, this is what a neighborhood can be.” Rogers message was to love our neighbors and ourselves.

In 1997, when Rogers accepted an Emmy for lifetime achievement, he gave a unique speech, which I think of as a meditation on gratitude and connection. He is in a room surrounded by movie stars and luminaries, beautifully dressed and made up, and beautifully masked in their own ways. As he speaks, the masks begin to fall, and people begin to smile and to cry.

I have turned the practice into a brief meditation.

Who Has Loved You into Being?

  • Start by sitting comfortably. Give yourself a moment or two to anchor yourself, perhaps feeling your breath or the sensations of your body sitting.
  • When you are ready, take a few seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are.
  • Don’t worry about trying to find a perfect relationship without ambivalence (those are very rare), but focus on someone who has cared for you, wanted the very best for you in life.
  • Spend a few moments taking this in, allowing yourself to feel the connection and feel the gratitude.
  • Rest in feeling loved and cared about, knowing that you matter and that you have worth.
  • Finally, as Fred Rogers noted, this person (wherever they are) would be pleased to know the difference they made.

What we see about another person is rarely essential, Rogers stressed. And what is center stage is rarely what is important. See what it might be like to connect, during your day, knowing that someone has loved you into being.