On my last visit to the local library, I found a slim volume on the “new books” shelf: The Simple Faith Of Mister Rogers, by Amy Hollingsworth. I was a moderate watcher of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when I was young, and I’ve read just enough about Fred Rogers to know that I was intrigued when I saw the book on the shelf. Yesterday provided me with some blessed free time to read, and so I made this little book my Sunday-afternoon diversion.
Ms. Hollingsworth is a pastor’s wife, a journalist, and writer. She met Fred Rogers when she had the opportunity to interview him some years ago. They then carried on a correspondance that lasted until he passed away in February 2003. From her experiences with Mr. Rogers she is able to share both observations about and philosophies learned from the man who was a daily TV visitor in so many families’ homes. The result is a book that is part devotional, part biography, and part personal memoir. Regardless of the composition, though, the result is a wonderful little book.
Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but took great stock in that charge oft-attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “preach the gospel… when necessary, use words.” As such, his gracious, encouraging manner spoke love, peace, and comfort to his watchers even without verbal gospel presentation. What is comforting to know is that the sincerity and earnestness seen on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood permeated Mr. Rogers in real life, too. Ms. Hollingsworth notes that more than one person who has met Mr. Rogers has later remarked that “he’s more ‘Mister Rogers’ than Mister Rogers!” He was the real thing.
The devotional points of the book were simple, and yet good reminders for those of us who live hectic lives: go slow. Take time for silence. Don’t neglect prayer. Encourage others. I was impressed by the consistency and simplicity of Mr. Rogers’ daily routine: Up at 5:30 for devotions and prayer. Early morning swim (including singing a bit of praise to God as he entered the pool!), breakfast, then to the studio. In bed no later than 9:30 PM. The same routine, every day. I was challenged.
I’d recommend The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers to anyone who wants to gain a bit more appreciation for the value of living a genuine, simple, whole-hearted life. It will also be interesting to those who have enjoyed Mister Rogers Neighborhood but are unfamiliar with the man and the faith behind that program.