Not Everything Is Crap. I Promise.

I know it can feel that way. I feel it too. It can be easy to focus on all the things that are horribly wrong with the world. Supreme Court Justices and demonizing immigrants and immoral, corrupt leaders… It can all feel like too much. I know we HAVE to focus on those things sometimes. But if that’s ALL we focus on, it can make us lose hope. And people who have lost hope are way less likely to vote. People who have lost hope stop trying. And when don’t vote and we stop trying, oppression and injustice and hatred thrive. So I just want to share a couple things to remind you that not everything is crap.

First, this video. In a game deciding which team would go on to the state tournament, pitcher Ty Koen struck out the final batter of the game… Who happened to be his good childhood friend Jack Kocon. Please, PLEASE watch this…

Sometimes the world can feel like it’s filled with videos of people falling down on a patch of ice, or guys getting hit in the nuts, or an overweight person breaking a porch swing, or some other garbage. People park their kids in front of a TV watching “America’s Funniest Videos,” and those kids are taught that the loss of human dignity is “funny.” But in the midst of that darkness, videos like the one above shine even brighter. Friendship is more powerful than any rivalry. One act of compassion is stronger than 100 acts of “win at any cost.” In an interview about that hug, Jack said that “Twenty years from now, I will think back to that game, and I will not remember the score, but I WILL remember what Ty did for me, and that’s really all that matters.”

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So that’s one good thing. And the second good thing I wanted to remind you of is Mr. Rogers. This year for HER birthday, my mother-in-law took our family to see the documentary about the life of Fred Rogers called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” I seriously cannot recommend this movie highly enough. This movie, much like Fred Rogers’ life, is an extraordinary act of goodness and hope. If you have ever trusted anything I have ever said, please trust me when I say this: You NEED to go see this movie. EVERYONE needs to see this movie.

There is a scene in “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” where Mr. Rogers meets Koko the gorilla. Last week Koko died. She knew over 1000 words in sign language, and understood over 2000 words. There is a story about how once Koko tore a sink off of the wall in the area where she lived (which is really nothing for a gorilla). When her handlers asked her about what happened, Koko blamed it on her kitten, Ms. Grey. She signed the words “Cat did it.” And as if that story wasn’t enough to make you smile for a very long time, listen to this… Koko was a huge fan of Mr. Rogers. His show was one she was allowed to watch. So when she got a chance to meet him in person, she hugged him and told him she loved him. There is a scene in the movie where she takes off Mr. Rogers’ shoes… Just like she had watched him do so many times before when he walked into his house. I honestly can’t tell people about that scene — with Koko hugging an old man and taking his shoes off — without tearing up with happiness. And I’ve tried many times.

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One last thing about Mr. Rogers, as we all look for light in the darkness and ways to stay hopeful. You may have seen the footage of Fred singing “It’s You I Like” with a little boy in a wheelchair named Jeff Erlanger. If you haven’t, you definitely need to watch it. But even if you have, please take a couple minutes to watch it again…

The love and attention and compassion displayed here are just extraordinary. Here are the words to the song “It’s You I Like,” written by Mr. Rogers himself:

It’s you I like,
It’s not the things you wear,
It’s not the way you do your hair–
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 toys–
They’re just beside you.

But it’s you I like–
Every part of you,
Your skin, your eyes, your feelings
Whether old or new.
I hope that you’ll 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.

Jeff went on from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to grow into a man who was an advocate and activist for the rights of people with disabilities. And when Mr. Rogers was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, Jeff was there to congratulate him. His appearance was a surprise for Fred. Watch as an old man leaps onto a stage to greet an old friend and neighbor… And then listen as Mr. Rogers emanates wisdom and kindness and goodness and light and life and love in his speech.

Both of these men are gone now… Memories of goodness. And as I think about a Supreme Court Justice being nominated by a uniquely immoral and broken man, I feel like I’m looking around for a hero. But in times of great darkness, Fred Rogers reminds us to “look for the HELPERS. Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there is HOPE.” And as we look for help, the words of a good neighbor speak from the past:We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people. ~ Fred Rogers

Please do yourself the favor of watching “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” It is self care for the soul. And then ask yourself what is is that you can give this world that no one else can. Because we desperately need the things you have to offer. As Mr. Rogers reminds us, “You’re the only one who can be you.” Anne Frank wrote “Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.” Be that single candle. Look for the candle in others. In times of great darkness, acts of love and light shine even brighter. We have got some hard work ahead of us. And we cannot do the work that needs to be done if we don’t have HOPE. My hope is not in the church… At least not the church in the way it looks today. My hope is not in moral heroes like Fred Rogers. My hope is that we can show the world that goodness is more attractive than selfishness and discrimination and hatred and bigotry and fear. My hope is that Love wins.

Stay hopeful, friends. Thank you so much to my Patrons. If you value this blog, and you’d like to help support it, you can BECOME A PATRON or you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL. The other way you can help support me (or any writer) is just to share the stuff you love. Share it on FACEBOOK. Share it on TWITTER. Share it wherever. But most of all, stay hopeful.

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5 Responses to Not Everything Is Crap. I Promise.

  1. Walter Thomas says:

    Thanks for providing some encouragement that there is GOOD left in the world. Unfortunately, I still feel terribly pessimistic about this country. Ninety percent of Republicans are now reported to support Trump and his dubious policies, NINETY PERCENT! If my wife were willing make the separation from family I would be looking to become a PROUD CANADIAN.

  2. Veronica says:

    Can that be true, Walter? 90%??? If so, I’m even more depressed than I was before I read this article. How can that many people be so uncaring, so selfish, so damn stupid?

  3. Brian says:

    The world is not nearly as messed up as you seem to think it is. The man you’re praising in this article was hardly a heretical liberal deconstructionist. He was a Christian, an ordained minister, and a Republican whose traditionally-conservative faith was integral to his life’s work.

    More Americans happen to approve of the current president’s policies than disapprove. The vast majority of Americans do not favor illegal immigration. Nor do Canadians, or Britions, or even Mexicans, by the way. Try and immigrate there and see how impossible that is. No other country rewards illegal immigration like America does. Try it and you’ll be prosecuted, deported, and banned from re-entry in almost every other country on Earth.

    You’re living in a bubble. Get out of the margins of your intellectual cocoon and you’ll find you’re in the minority, not the majority. That by itself doesn’t make you wrong, but it might give you a different perspective on and compassion for the ordinary mainstream Americans you look down upon and marginalize.

    • threebaddogs says:

      Your point is well taken, but do you really believe that if Fred Rogers were still alive that he’d support the views and actions of the current Republican party? When he was alive, being Republican meant something completely different than it does today. My parents were Republican in philosophy and I know that if they were alive, they wouldn’t support what is happening today. Back then, it meant something different to many people and was more about a fiscal point of view than about societal judgments.

      I question your statistics about immigration. You’ve painted a very specific picture by using the word “illegal.” Most Americans favor immigration as a concept (https://tinyurl.com/y7bhm8lt) — of course, if you put “illegal” in front of anything, people will have an unfavorable view of it. The fact is, however, that many people being detained at the border are asking for asylum, which is NOT illegal, but they are being processed as though they were not asking for asylum. The problem is that the immigration system as a whole needs some reform. (I lived for years a few hundred yards from the US/Mexico border and never once experienced anything negative as a result, btw.) The legality of anything doesn’t define its morality. According the the US Constitution, it used to be perfectly legal to own human beings or deny them their right to vote. Those things were legal then. Also according to the US Constitution, it’s legal for a woman to choose her own actions when she is pregnant. Many people believe that is immoral, although it is legal.

      But back to your core argument about immigration. The majority of Americans oppose the wall (https://tinyurl.com/yaktpckv) and support allowing DACA kids to stay. The most recent polls (last week) show that only 41% of Americans approve of the job the president has been doing (https://tinyurl.com/ybz9lnv2).

      I think we all live in bubbles–your perspective is an example of this. But I agree that we should all try to get out of ours. I think the blog post you’re commenting on is inviting you out of your own bubble, but you’ve reacted with some pique. We all seem to be caught in some infinite loop of antagonism. I’m not aiming to antagonize you–just offering another perspective.

  4. Jay Johnson says:

    Chris, I always appreciate you counsel when things get dark. This article made me weepy, but not in a bad way. You reminded me, as did US Rep. John Lewis yesterday, that we must not despair, but live in and work toward hope and peace. I’m still looking for the Mr. Rogers doc, and I’ll persevere. Several members of my family want to see it, too.
    Thanks for the booster. We’ll need to keep each other afloat through these hard times, and keep an eye out for the others who need us.

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