Larry Lee: We Could Use Some Mr. Rogers

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Larry Lee says Mr. Rogers would come in very handy right about now.

We’re coming on two years that we’ve been living in COVID, as Omicron surges on. Honestly, having to live in this constant state of uncertainty and unpredictability is taking its toll. On top of all of this are additional stressors; climate change, rampant crime, homelessness in the city and racial and political strife, I find myself yearning for some sense of comfort and reassurance.

So, I decided to turn to old Mr. Rogers episodes. It’s been a long time since I’ve visited his neighborhood. I was immediately reminded of his magical ability to communicate a calm and reassuring message that always left me feeling that everything would be ok.

As a psychotherapist, I can employ sophisticated therapeutic techniques, but Mr. Rogers reminds me that the most powerful gift is simply giving someone my full heartfelt attention and presence, to truly see them. I recently had a cable technician come over the other day for a repair, and I decided to not just leave him to do his business, instead, I asked him, “Do you like your job?” This seemed to catch him off guard, but I noticed he appeared to release tension from his entire body as he shared with me how his girlfriend just left him. He said he had to keep this job to help her get citizenship. I told him I was sorry that this happened to him and how he must’ve really cared about her. He seemed grateful for my understanding.

I certainly don’t mean to suggest that I have Mr. Roger’s gift to be able to be fully present with people. However, I am reminded how much it is a gift, especially during this pandemic to be able to truly see our loved ones, our neighbors, or the homeless person we walk past everyday. It’s little connections that can make a difference to a person who feels invisible and alone. I wonder what Mr. Rogers would say to us now? Here are Mr. Roger’s words, comforting then and comforting now:

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”

With a Perspective, I’m Larry Lee.

Larry Lee is a San Francisco psychotherapist.