Coronavirus COVID-19 seems to have taken center stage in the world today, and rightfully so. It is a terrible illness that kills some of our most vulnerable – especially the elderly and those with underlying disease. Our government (like many in the world) is appealing for us to do all we can to reduce the spread of this deadly virus. Handwashing, not touching our faces, social distancing, and testing if symptomatic. We have been asked to avoid gathering in groups larger than 10. Schools, universities, gyms, various government agencies, and some businesses are closed to safeguard the larger population.
I find myself, because of age and health history, to be in that “at-risk” population, so life has become much less peopled and much more quiet.
At home this weekend, Dave and I finally watched the 2019 film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It focuses on the life and work of children’s television personality Mr. (Fred) Rogers (played by Tom Hanks). In the biographical film, we watch unfold a relationship between Mr. Rogers and the journalist Tom Junod (played by Matthew Rhys). The writer met Mr. Rogers on an assignment to interview him for the 1998 Esquire article “Can You Say…Hero?”.
The film begins slow and quiet, much like this new normal for me (my husband is still working like a crazy man, so not so much for him). I was about to release Dave from watching it with me, and then the story totally captured our attention.
At the end of the movie (which I highly recommend), Mr. Rogers’ sweet personality and deep wisdom seem to find an anchor in what we’re dealing with at present. Here are my thoughts and some of what he had to say, as if in response (although Mr. Rogers died in 2003 at the age of 74).
1) To avoid contracting and/or spreading the Coronavirus, some of us must settle on a quieter lifestyle for awhile.
“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?” – Fred Rogers
Even days into this social distancing thing, I’m finding that the quiet is helping me reflect on and think through issues and ideas that I’d left unattended in previous more busy days. For some of you, with children home from cancelled school and carrying more responsibility than less, this quiet may still elude. Do what you can to chase after it. It may be one of the most crucial outcomes of this trial.
2) In this unique crisis, we are making intentional decisions to protect the most vulnerable…even facing our own hardships while about it.
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers
Mr. Rogers communicated in the film, his TV show, and in the songs he composed that “Each one of us is precious.” It is so moving…so transforming…to actually be a part of a nation’s resolve to protect our more elderly and those at risk because of underlying health issues. This protecting of the most vulnerable will have enormous cost for some…for many in our country (and the world). It is a humanizing step for us.
Although close contact is being discouraged in public places for now, we still want to reach out to each other in healthy and creative ways.
3) As we isolate to avoid the spread of this virus, we still can show care for each other…just in different ways.
“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors–in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.” – Fred Rogers
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.” – Fred Rogers
In Mr. Rogers’ life, one way he showed care for those in his life was to pray for them by name, every day. He spent long early morning hours in prayer for one after another, sometimes even strangers who had asked him to pray. His faith wasn’t something he paraded on his TV program, but he lived it deeply and openly in his relationships. It is something we can do while socially distancing.
Also we are watching government agencies and private corporations cooperate in the fight of Coronavirus. We are seeing a different level of civility between political parties, a heightened cooperation. We all have something dreadfully in common right now in the fight against this virus. Good questions are being raised and better answers given.
4) We can have hope for what comes out of all this.
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Fred Rogers
“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.” – Fred Rogers
Our church is helping with a feeding program for our city schools during the shutdown. This is the beginning of a relationship that we didn’t have before. What we are learning, as a country, from this virus, and how to combat it, will help us with future viral assaults. I see hope more than despair, even in countries hardest hit.
5) Those in our helping professions, along with the scientists, and the many change agents in the wide and diverse management of this health crisis are our heroes right now.
“Look for the helpers.” – Fred Rogers
“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 grateful we are for those who don’t have a quieter life right now. Those who are showing up every day for work, at great risk to their own health. The first responders, the doctors and nurses, the scientists, and our government representatives – working long hours. For us all. It is a joy to look for the helpers…and to be among them as opportunity arises, which it will.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Thank you, Mr. Rogers, Dear Man. Thank you, Tom Hanks, for reminding us of his wisdom, love, and sparkle.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? – 2018 Documentary on the life and thinking of Fred Rogers