We’re Lifelong Friends

The trolley! At WQED. (Credit: David Pinkerton)

I grew up with Mister Rogers and PBS in general. PBS played an outsized role in my childhood because my mother didn’t speak English with me at home, so a lot of my early understanding of the world came from what I saw on Sesame Street and Mister Rogers Neighborhood. When I was in elementary school, our family went to Pittsburgh and got a tour of the studio where they make the show. We got to see the puppets from the land of make believe and I was star struck. I think Mr. Rogers was my first celebrity crush, and always in my heart. When he died in the early aughts, I grieved. And since then, I have kept a book of his quotes and wisdom with me wherever I live, so other people can read him when they come over.

Last week while guest hosting It’s Been a Minute, I spoke with Carvell Wallace, the host of Finding Fred, a podcast that deep dives into Mister Rogers’ life and lessons and legacy.

Our conversation brought me to tears. This is the part of the transcript that hit me hard, though, it’s best heard rather than read. The Mr. Rogers conversation is in the middle of the show — it follows the “three words” A segment.

WALLACE: So he was really swimming upstream in almost every sense. And I think people – because we have unhealed children that live in us that we’re not seeing and that are not loved, I think we’re still looking for a child’s solution to being an adult. So perhaps what he might tell us is that – and he said this – this is something that he said in the last thing he ever did in television, which was a PSA after 9/11:

ROGERS (archived recording): I’m just so proud of all of you who have grown up with us. And I know how tough it is some days to look with hope and confidence on the months and years ahead.

WALLACE: And he talked about two very important concepts. One is the idea that – it’s a Jewish concept – tikkun olam, which means to be repairers of the world.

ROGERS (archived): I’m so grateful to you for helping the children in your life to know that you’ll do everything you can to keep them safe and to help them express their feelings in ways that will bring healing in many different neighborhoods.

WALLACE: And the second concept that he talked about is that he spoke to adults. And he said, I’m so proud of you and who you’ve become.

ROGERS: It’s such a good feeling to know that we’re lifelong friends.

WALLACE: And so even there, he’s saying to people, you are free from the burden to have to prove yourself. And so with that out of the way, perhaps you can focus on repairing the world.

GAAAHHH it hit me so hard in the feels when we played the tape of Mr. Rogers in the interview, and then again when I listened to the mixed version for edit/review, I started bawling all over again.

A Few Choice Chats

Earlier this month I traveled to Boston to guest-host our WBUR/NPR co-produced program, Here & Now, and also filled-in on two episodes of my friend Sam’s podcast, It’s Been a Minute. Some highlights, ICYMI:

American Motherhood is Messed Up, a conversation with author Amy Westervelt (who I met at JAWS in Oregon in October) about how capitalism and America’s Puritan roots shaped a motherhood culture that’s bad for our society’s men, women and children.

Steven Yeun on identity (and so much more). Actor Steven Yeun is a big deal in America for his stint on the Walking Dead, but he actually found that experience confining and explained why. He also opened up about the journey he’s taken regarding his identity as an Asian-American and how he learned to feel comfortable in his own skin. I learned a lot!

The Weekly Wrap. Every Friday on Sam’s show, a panel of guests comes in to riff on the week that was. My daughter Eva introduced the show (which was so awesome) and our guests — Peter Hamby of Snapchat and Soumya Karlamangla of the LA Times. We had so much fun and covered a lot of ground, from sausages to tough electoral fights to k-pop.