Fred Rogers and his wife Joanne met in college and were married for 50 years. She was the person who early on recognized his talent, witnessed his efforts to overcome shyness, and loved his humor, kindness, and understanding of children. "Fred was more in touch with his own childhood than anyone," she writes. The following is excerpted from a new book, "The World According to Mister Rogers" (Hyperion).

There were always quotes tucked away in Fred's wallet, next to his neatly folded bills, or in the pages of his daily planner book. Perhaps he liked having words of wisdom close to him, as if he wanted-or needed-to be constantly reminded of what was important in life. The outside world may have thought his qualities of wisdom and strength came naturally to him, but those close to him knew that he was constantly striving. He was as human as the rest of us.

His early work in TV was all behind-the-scenes, as puppeteer and musician, and that was quite comfortable for him, because Fred was basically shy. Someone once asked which one of his puppets resembled him the most. It was, of course, Daniel Striped Tiger-an uncharacteristically shy tiger.

The person Fred became in his later years came out of growth and struggle. As he got older, it seemed as if the nurturing of his soul and mind became more and more important. He read with pleasure the works of friends and others he admired and respected, and he began each day with prayers for a legion of family and friends and, in general, for the peacemakers of the world. Reading the Bible was also part of this early morning routine-before he went for his daily swim. He worked hard at being the best he could be. In fact, it seems to me he worked a lot more than he played. Discipline was his very strong suit. If I were asked for three words to describe him, I think those words would be courage, love, and discipline-perhaps in that very order.

A quote he loved especially-and carried around with him-was from Mary Lou Kownacki: "There isn't anyone you couldn't love once you've heard their story." There were so many times I wanted to be angry at someone, and Fred would say, "But I wonder what was going on in that person's day."

Mister Rogers' Words of Wisdom:

On Childhood Influences
All our lives, we rework the things from our childhood, like feeling good about ourselves, managing our angry feelings, being able to say good-bye to people we love.

On Love
Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.

On Parenting
I received a letter from a parent who wrote: "Mister Rogers, how do you do it? I wish I were like you. I want to be patient and quiet and even-tempered, and always speak respectfully to my children. But that jut isn't my personality. I often lose my patience and even scream at my children. I want to change from an impatient person into a patient person, from an angry person into a gentle one."

Just as it takes time for children to understand what real love is, it takes time for parents to understand that being always patient, quiet, even-tempered, and respectful isn't necessarily what "good" parents are. In fact, parent help children by expressing a wide range of feelings-including appropriate anger. All children need to see that the adults in their lives can feel anger and not hurt themselves or anyone else when they feel that way.

On Heroes
When I was very young, most of my childhood heroes wore caps, flew through the air, or picked up buildings with one arm. They were spectacular and got a lot of attention. But as I grew, my heroes changed, so that now I can honestly say that anyone who does anything to help a child is a hero to me.

more from beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad