Did you ever observe him shocked by something or truly upset-did anything ever shake him in your presence?
One time he was telling me about early on in his career. We were just chit-chatting, walking around the studio. This was the first time I'd met him, and he was telling me about how some of his songs had been stolen, he hadn't gotten some of his early songs copyrighted, and they had been stolen. And you know how you respond to something, and nonchalantly go, oh, that's terrible. And he stopped at me and said, "it was terrible!" I asked his staff if he ever got angry, and they said that he did, but he would walk off the set and go play the piano until he had worked it out, and then he would very calmly resume.

You and Mister Rogers come from different Christian backgrounds. How did he affect your spiritual life?

I really thought, in my narrow-minded way, when I first met him, that I was going to impact his spirituality. In my circle at the time, he didn't use the right words, he didn't use the right vocabulary. He didn't use the phrase "born again" or "saved." Whereas in my circle people might call God "Father God," he called God "the Eternal." I really thought, I'm going to get him to be bolder about using some of this terminology, and isn't that always the way-I meet this gentle man, and he's the one who ends up transforming my life. I think I thought I had my faith all figured out, and he reintroduced mystery. Using a term like "the Eternal" instead of "Father God" shows that sense of awe and mystery that I think I had lost. So he did very gently nudge me in a different direction. I think he made me less narrow-minded, more tolerant, and more in awe of what's mysterious about our faith.

Are there any incidents that stand out to you about the effect that Mister Rogers had on people, or how his faith helped a particular person?
They are legions. I think I'm more dramatically impacted by the adults whose lives have been transformed. A woman in her mid-50s told me that about 10 years ago she and her husband had divorced, and she was feeling just horrible about herself. She was flipping through the channels, and Fred was on, and he said, I like you exactly the way you are. People can accept you exactly the way you are. She just started crying, because that was not her experience with her husband. The other story that's pretty dramatic was Lauren Tewes, who played Julie, the Love Boat cruise director, who credits Mister Rogers with helping her overcome her cocaine addiction. She watched him, and she was convinced that she was special because Mister Rogers said she was. It was the thing that propelled her down a road that led to her recovery.

He did tell me that he considered the space between the television set and the viewer holy ground, and that whatever he said or did on the show could be translated by the Holy Spirit into what the person needed to see and hear.

And there are so many stories of people who have called him or written him and said, you know when you said such and such or did such and such, it really made a difference. And he'd say that he'd go back and look at the script, and he hadn't said that at all. But there was this translation because he offered it so sincerely and with faith, that he knew that could be translated into what the viewer needed to see and hear. There's another story in the book. This young man had been abused by his parents, and he was watching the Neighborhood, and it gave him hope because he said if people treat each other with such kindness in Mister Roger's neighborhood, then maybe that's a potential in my own life. Eventually he called an abuse hotline, and was adopted by the couple who ran the hotline. But here's someone whose only background was abuse, and distrust from the very people who were supposed to love and care for him, and who watched Mister Rogers and was convinced that had to be a reality someplace in this world.

To me it's amazing-here's a kid's show with a trolley and puppets with mouths that don't move, and a speedy delivery guy, and yet these powerful stories of cocaine deliverance and getting out of abusive situations, or divorced women who get their esteem back.

Mister Rogers urged parents and children to turn the channel when violent or scary shows were on. Do you think he opposed restrictions on indecent material on television?
I think that he would probably feel that that was a parent's responsibility. He's the one who said that the television set is the only electrical appliance that's more useful when it's turned off. He had this experience when he was watching cartoons with his grandson. Some avenging hero was picking off the bad guys, and Fred was saying to his grandson how scary that was for him, even as an adult, and his grandson said, but Granddaddy, those are the bad guys! Fred was like, there's a better way to treat bad guys than killing them. His response was to make a public service announcement geared toward parents and their children to empower children to turn off the television. My guess is that he would have felt that that would have been a parent's job, giving the children permission to turn off the television when it frightens them.