Everybody knows Mister Rogers.
He was born in 1928 and died the morning of February 27, 2003 with his wife by his side. Despite being soft-spoken and unassuming, he attracted the attention of millions of viewers over the course of his career. To say he was beloved would be an understatement.
Reading an account about his life on Wikipedia is humbling. He spent his life in service to others—whether it was writing a book to help a child after the death of a pet or advocating for 20 million dollars in support for the PBS by insisting that public television provided both social and emotional education critical for a child’s development.
So I wondered, how did Mister Rogers become the man he was?
Fred Rogers was known to be an avid reader so that’s where I started. I googled ‘books that influenced Mister Rogers’ and found a letter he’d written. Ten books were listed. He wrote that he considered the Bible the greatest of the books.
Here’s the list.
So if the Bible was the greatest, why wasn’t it at the top?
If this list were written by anyone else, I wouldn’t question it, but Fred Rogers was quite purposeful in his actions. So I thought about that first book...
Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) is hard to define. It’s about a pilot that crashes in the Sahara and meets a Little Prince. The Prince describes his love for a rose, his visits to other planets and meeting a fox. While written like a children’s book, adults can appreciate the lessons from the narrator of the story. Some readers claim that it’s a book about war, while others state that it’s about the creativity of childhood.
I think each reader gains different insights and my suspicion is that the lessons learned vary according to the circumstances you find yourself in at the time. So with repeated readings… you may actually experience a different insight each time.
And that reminded me of the Bible.
Jesus didn’t pass out the Hebrew Bible to the crowds of people searching for answers—he started by telling parables... just like “Le Petit Prince”. What if the list is building up to the Bible?
Maybe Mister Rogers left us a path to follow—I’m going to find out.
Some of my favorite quotes from Le Petit Prince are:
All grown-ups were once children…but only a few of them remember it.
The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.
You can find the book The Little Prince here.
Photograph from PBS.org