Last night, I found myself alone in the family room. I picked up the remote to see if there was anything worthwhile on TV. Just before I was about to give up my search, I went to Movies On Demand and found, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a biography about Mister Rogers. A wave of nostalgia pulled at my heart. (I watched this show as a kid.) Maybe I’ll fall asleep to it, I thought, assuming the film would be ... boring. I pushed “Play”.
So glad I did.
When 895 episodes are produced and aired over 31+ seasons, it’s safe to say that a show was a success. But how Rogers captivated his audiences is truly unique to television, then and now.
Watching the documentary, I was struck by Rogers’ use of silence and simplicity to make a statement. “I like the quiet,” he says on his program. Then, shows us how to use it by pausing in his conversation to allow himself and the audience to think.
Not only is his speech deliberate, his movements are too. Carefully examining the world with childlike curiosity and appreciation. Rogers makes even the simplest acts compelling, like feeding his fish. Always delighting in the present moment. Not a teaching moment wasted.
“I’d like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today... It’s not the honors and the prizes, and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted. That we never have to fear the truth. That the bedrock of our lives, from which we make our choices, is very good stuff.”
With so much noise in the world today, silence is a gift. Yet, many of us are uncomfortable with it. We’d rather be doing than thinking. Busy than slow. Noisy than quiet. I’m often guilty of this. I allow the world to whisk me away far too often than I’d like. My mind becomes like that cartoon hamster on a running wheel. Constantly working but not producing. Even when I sit down to rest, I fidget with my I-phone.
Then comes the inevitable void. The spiritual neglect has caught up to me and created an absence of inner peace. My restlessness and agitation reflects in my actions and words. It’s not until I pull back from my undisciplined ways and turn inward, tending to my soul, that I start to gain back that peace again.
We all need time to pull back. To practice the ancient art of retreating and reflecting. Jesus did. He took time to be alone, pausing his earthly mission to pray and reflect. That’s why I want to invite you to be my neighbor.
On Saturday, September 7th, SpirFit will be hosting a Wellness Retreat on the beautiful grounds of St. Anne’s Retreat Center in Melbourne, Kentucky. The theme is “Living in the Present Moment”. Our speakers will include hosts of the “Catholic Soup” podcast, which you can listen to here.
As well, there will be a number of activities to choose from that are focused on nourishing the mind, body and spirit, including personal time for silence and reflection. Tickets will go on sale later this month. A link will be provided on the Spir-Fit website.
Okay. Oddly, I didn’t intend to write about the retreat in this post. I intended to talk more about Rogers. (But God takes us all sorts of places when we lean on him.) Anyway, let me end by circling back to a Rogers’ quote from the movie.
“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”