The Kindness of Mister Rogers, The Wonder of Nature

I was only a little surprised when I read in Mary Pflum Peterson's piece in The Washington Post that her 21st century kids liked, really liked, the original Mister Rogers. So much, in fact, that they binge-watched all the old episodes with her.

"He likes kids, Mommy,” her daughter said. “Kids know when a grown-up likes them.”

But it was her youngest son's comment that got my attention. 

“And he’s not too loud,” her son added. “When we watch him, there’s no noise. You don’t have to worry about anything.”

Our modern world is, most often, a noisy place. Which is not the same as being filled with sound. And for Peterson's son, noise is worrisome. 

We live on the edge of a forest, and rarely is the forest silent. Fall is filled with the sounds of chickadees caching their winter supply of seeds and insects, black Abert's squirrels trying to outrun the red fox squirrels, crows warning away intruders. 

As I sit here in the quiet stillness of our log home, snow is sliding from the boughs of the ponderosas in great loud thumps as the sun warms the branches. Earlier, on this Thanksgiving morning before the sun had fully risen, a few of our neighborhood's bull elk wandered through the deep snow in our backyard, pausing to gnaw tree bark before shaking their massive heads at each other, rattling their antlers half-heartedly now that the rut was over. 

The rattle of antlers when bulls challenge each other is a primal sound, sharp and percussive as the air vibrates through the woods. Two bulls vying for dominance. But noisy? Worrisome? No. Not like the political noise now coming from our once hallowed halls of Congress.  

Here is a photo of my granddaughter Carly taken a few years ago when she was hiking in the Montana woods with her mother. Each step brought new wonders, like when she happened upon this deer shed waiting quietly to be discovered. 

And here is a photo of my granddaughter Jayde, the soft silence between her and her horse unfolding as quietly as the promise of a story waiting to be discovered between the covers of a book. 

Perhaps of all the gifts we can give our children, the gift of a few moments free of noise and worry is the most precious gift of all. Think of what an hour of wondrous silence might mean to them? Think of the spaciousness that would open up in their day, inviting the sounds of nature and their own quiet contemplations to enter.

It's not surprising that the youngest son of Mary Pflum Peterson was drawn into the quiet spaces that Mister Rogers carved out of each day's noise for all the children who entered his gracious world.

We were reminded once by Mister Rogers that "Our society is much more interested in information than wonder, in noise rather than silence." He believed that "we need a lot more wonder and a lot more silence in our lives."

I am grateful that my granddaughers find the world to be a wondrous place. I am grateful that their parents can sit silently with them outside, listening to the sounds of nature. I am grateful that they understand that the world will speak to us, if only we remember to be quiet and listen.

Blessings to all of you on this day of thanksgiving.

NOTE: Author Gavin Edwards reminds us in his new book Kindness and Wonder (featured above) that Mister Rogers matters now, more than ever.

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