Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Deep and Simple

It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?...

Please won't you be my neighbor?

If you grew up in the era of PBS children's programs being the acme of educational television for kids, then the friendly jingle probably popped in your head as you read the above and you pictured the familiar kindhearted grin, hand-knitted sweater and canvas tennis shoes of Mr. Rogers, everyone's most beloved neighbor.

Thanks to the guys at the 9 Thumbs podcast, I came across a great little documentary a few weeks back called Mister Rogers & Me .

The film follows Benjamin Wagner, MTV producer and Nantucket neighbor of Mr. Rogers, as he seeks to find the meaning behind Mr. Rogers words to him:

"I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex."

Watching this documentary, seeing new and familiar images of our beloved neighbor, hearing his neighbors talk about him and his passion for deep and simple--I found myself challenged.

Deep and simple.

In a New York Times article about the film, Maxwell King, a senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media in Latrobe, Pa.--Mr. Rogers’s hometown--said this of Fred Rogers:
“He embraced television, the cutting-edge technology of his day, but he always used it and wanted to see it used in the most thoughtful and measured way to be helpful to children and families, never to exploit them."
To me, that is why so many people admired Fred Rogers and why he captivated the minds of children for decades.

Mr. Roger's never had an agenda. He never tried to sell you a product. He never used propaganda of any kind.

Sitting on the living room floor in front of the television, you believed and you knew Mr. Rogers was there because he cared about you and all that made you uniquely you. Even if he was trapped behind the bubble of the television screen, Mr. Rogers knew about the things that made you scared, the things that made you happy and the things that made you sad. And you could trust him with those things as he helped you work through them in his own soft and gentle way.

He acknowledged the hard feelings--the sadness, the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, the fear--that children feel without glossing over them and making light of them. He dealt with serious issues of death and divorce with grace, encouraging kids to feel every emotion and allowing them to hurt in healing ways.

Deep and simple.

What made Mr. Rogers a television icon was his simplicity and his gentleness. Even "speedy deliveries" happened with a deliberate slowness that allowed all of the feeling, all of the emotion, all of the moment to happen.

Mr. Rogers never rushed, he never hurried to the next thing, and in that slowness he allowed the full moment to happen with every detail in place and each detail equally as important as the last detail.

Watching, you somehow knew at that moment, you were the most important person in Mr. Rogers' world.

Those who knew him in real life and not just in the make believe world of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood say it was like that in real life too. When Mr. Rogers talked to you, when he interacted with you, you were the most important person in his world in that moment.

Deep and simple.

Watching Mr. Rogers and Me, I discovered, decades later, I still have a lot to learn from Mr. Rogers.

Our world swirls in complexity around us. Politics and the economy. Education and business. Media and entertainment. Church and church politics. They all swirl about us making our lives ever more complex and, often, ever more shallow.

I think it is impossible to obtain real depth--to go deeper in your relationships with people and with God--without slowing down, breathing in the quiet from time to time and allowing deep and simple to envelop you.

Walking in the front door, taking off your suit coat and exchanging it for the warmth of a hand-knitted sweater. Removing your dress shoes and putting on a simple pair of tennis shoes. And setting aside all the complex for a little time in make believe, allowing a bit of whimsy into your life--those moments of deep and simple will be the moments we take with us. They'll be the moments that remain long after we're gone.

I'm inspired by the life of Mr. Rogers to make deep and simple the norm of my day to day and shallow and complex the fleeting. And I want to teach Hannah to treasure the deep and the simple instead of storing up the shallow and complex.

The way we love others. The way we love ourselves. The way we love God. That is deep and simple.

I'm convinced deep and simple is at the very heart of the what and the who God created us to be.

I'm convinced deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex.

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