By Abe Villarreal
Mr. Rogers, the late plainspoken TV personality, has experienced a surge in popularity lately. Why?
The U.S. Postal Service released a forever stamp featuring his familiar smile, recognizable red sweater, and crown-wearing King Friday. The stamp was issued 15 years after his death.
And now there's a critically acclaimed documentary. People have been said to leave theaters in tears. There's something about this man we know as everyone's favorite neighbor.
In life, everything is about timing. Good ideas and great talents fall flat on their faces if the people choose to look the other way, and when they do look, it's because they are trying to fill a void.
Today, we are missing something that only Mr. Rogers can provide. For more than 30 years, he sang the same song and told us the same message. Conventional wisdom says that his TV show should have never made it past the first season.
But, back then, we related. We appreciated his message. I wish Mr. Rogers was alive today, telling us what we are not hearing anywhere else.
In an episode that always chokes me up, Mr. Rogers opened his door to a kid named Jeff Erlanger. He was "one of his neighbors." The five-year-old boy couldn't walk-in. His condition, brought on by a tumor, confined him to an electric wheelchair at the age of four.
Jeff was the kind of boy that most of us walk by quickly. You know, those people that make it a little longer to get in the store and take up too much space in an elevator. Mr. Rogers saw something completely different.
On his porch, Mr. Rogers asked Jeff about his doctors, and Jeff shared about his stomach pain and difficulty in urinating. Mr. Rogers looked him straight in the eyes the entire time and then he sang him a song called "It's You I Like."
The lyrics are heartwarming: It's you I like, it's not the things you wear, it's not the way you do your hear, but it's you I like. The way you are right now, the way down deep inside you, not the things that hide you, not your fancy chair, that's just beside you. It's you I like, every part of you, your skin, your eyes, your feelings, whether old or new. I hope that you remember even when you're feeling blue. That it's you I like, it's you yourself, it's you. It's you I like.
They spoke to each other in the ways we are afraid to these days. Jeff talked about the times he felt blue and what he did to lose those feelings.
We don't share anymore. We are afraid to admit weaknesses and to confide in others. We are losing certain human connections. Pride has overcome us. Being right or wrong has replaced being happy or sad.
We need more Mr. Rogers-like people in the world. Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for reminding us about the things we used to feel where the most essential values in life.
It's you we like.