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  • Dawn Geschiere

Fred Rogers and I


Who are your real-life human heroes?


One of my newest human heroes is Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." To me, Fred Rogers was an incredible life and empowerment coach. He never thought of himself as a that way of course. But I do, and here's why...


At the end of 2019 my husband and I went to a movie with one of our daughters. We all wanted to see Tom Hanks in his role as Fred Rogers since we love Tom Hanks' acting and the movie had gotten some good reviews.


I walked into the movie theater with no idea of the impact Fred Rogers would have on me.


Something BIG stirred inside me watching Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers--something I've come to recognize as more than just admiration or respect. Watching "Fred" (a.k.a. Tom Hanks) on the screen, I discovered a kindred spirit. Inside I whispered, "Yes. This. Yes. Exactly." Who knew that Fred Rogers and I were soulmates? Why didn't I realize this sooner? Why hadn't I tried to meet him or write him a letter that he'd be sure to answer (he personally answered every single letter he received)? Years ago, when our kids sat watching the show, why hadn't I paid more attention to his on-screen and off-screen self (which apparently was the same person)?


...and so began a journey to meet and get to know Fred Rogers. An idea started brewing. I would turn 60 in early March. My family and friends kept asking me how I wanted to celebrate this decade birthday. Unlike my other "big" birthdays, I decided to create a decade year of various celebrations. On my actual birthday, though, I'd go and "meet my new friend, Fred." It seemed like I'd be taking a solo trip with my kindred spirit. I prepared for our trip by researching his life--finding out that he grew up in Latrobe, Pennsylvania--an easy drive from Pittsburgh. I loved Pittsburgh, so that would be my home-base. Plus, Fred Roger's television career happened in Pittsburgh, so I'd figure out the sites I wanted to visit while I was there. I began to think of my birthday trip as a shared experience with Fred himself. Though he'd left earth 17 years ago, I thought of him as my travel buddy on this trip. I'd have about a four and a half hour drive, so I'd listen to an Audible book along the way. My Book Club had chosen the book, "Exactly As You Are: The Life and Faith of Mister Rogers," which fit perfectly for my roadtrip experience with Fred.


Fred and I had a great time together. The more I got to know him, the more I connected with this beautiful soul. I bought a book of his quotes and I quote him often. It's hard to choose a favorite, but this quote is a contender...


The purpose of life is to listen--to yourself, to your neighbor, to your world and to God and, when the time comes, to respond in as helpful a way as you can find... from within and without.


Who are your human heroes? What is it about each hero that inspires you to grow?






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