by Ernie McCray
Everyone, perhaps, has now seen the picture of Martin Richards, the 8 year old boy who lost his life in Boston, holding a sign that says “No more hurting people – Peace.” Oh, if we, as a society, could live in such a caring way.
And these sentiments, expressed by Mr. Rogers, of children’s television fame, have gone viral in cyberspace: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'”
How true, and I see Martin, even though he has been taken away from us, as one of the “helpers” of the world that Mr. Rogers has painted in our minds as he is already helping me to carry on after the madness at the Boston Marathon.
His sentiments are so simple. So innocent. So child-like. So characteristic, if you will, of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
If the world is to ever become safer for its inhabitants won’t it happen because people have become more loving? Such thinking is idealistic, I admit, but citizens of the world treating each other in hateful ways sure hasn’t brought about any good old days.
And I’m not talking about getting rid of our armies and our navies and our air and special forces. That would scare the hell out of me in a world like ours where if you let your guard down evil rushes in to do you harm, but what if we called on these devices a little less than we do?
Isn’t it true that since World War II we could have avoided so much of our warring? I’ll just go through a few. Korea? Never had to happen. Bay of Pigs? Anti-communist silliness. Vietnam? No way. Dominican Republic in ’65? More anti-red jive. Grenada? Same old same old with socialism, this time, as the foe. Stomping through Panama chasing Manuel Noriega, our big time drug dealing friend? Big time sin. Desert Storm? Unh unh. Please. Afghanistan and Iraq with its Shock and Awe Show? Illegal as all get out; no way to go.
How many Martin Richards died innocently and needlessly in this barrage of violence?
So why don’t we listen to the soft spoken man who wore a cardigan sweater and a tie and asked our children “Won’t you be my neighbor?” many times before he died.
He once said, “The child is in me still and sometimes not so still.” Maybe humankind’s problem is that we have let the child in us slip away – to the point that we can’t give into our better selves and truly explore how to make our world a better place. Perchance we could begin right away, as we move past the frightening bombs that literally destroyed our day, by paying attention to the lessons about love that Fred McFeely Rogers tried to teach us.
Relating to our day to day lives, he had this to say: “Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
That probably wouldn’t work in our country’s relations with the North Koreas and Irans and Syrias of the world as they are not “touchy feely” governments, but such thinking as this from the mind of Mr. Rogers might help: “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” If more of us subscribed to such reasoning might we achieve such a way of living?
Of course we’re angry right now, full of feelings of revenge, wanting to take scalps, eager for tit-for-tat, seeking justice for a wrong that has rocked us to our very core. Such is understandable. But let’s say we find out who has hurt us and we capture them and they reap what they have sewn. What do we do after that? How do we keep the world’s children safe – and ourselves – after we’ve had our fill of eye-for-and-eye and tooth-for-a-tooth mentality?
As I ponder such a question, this statement from Mr. Rogers resonates solidly with me: “At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision have to continue against all odds. Life is for service.”
That should be music to our ears, an impetus for leading us to find ways to honor the likes of exemplary human beings like Martin Richards and Mr. Rogers with thoughts of how we can proceed with our lives, in as reasonable a manner as we possibly can without hurting people. In peace.
What do we possibly have to lose?