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In this May 2020 digital COVID-19 edition
We’re talking about Mister Rogers and if you don’t like him, I don’t like you.
Mister Rogers had a simple set of rules for talking with children, which still apply to us, for such a time like this.
There’s a musical break
We have a mandated wImagine Legal moment about how some partners will be swapped in or out of wImagine
Everyone loved Mister Rogers and you know it.
There was something about how he spoke, how he cared so deeply about others, that just resonates in every soul. This was a man who you knew just bled love, compassion, grace, and truth with every breath he took. He was an expert at saying true stuff that was really difficult (well, for a child at least), in a way that made them feel loved and can easily accept the truth.
What would Mister Rogers do in such a time like this? I don’t know about you but I feel like the whole world is trying to create labels now. The ‘good’ guys vs. the ‘bad’ guys. The ‘over-reacting’ ones vs. the ‘under-reacting’ ones. And in this whole pursuit of labeling, we forget about the broken human soul in every person right now.
We put our own dreams, our own expectations, our own hopes onto others but in trying to win the point, even if the point is right, we are more than willing to lose that broken, jacked, screwed up person. Thank goodness we’re never that broken person… right?
I wanted to take time in this letter to share how Mister Rogers spoke with kids. Turned out, he spent hours upon hours just writing those episodes, taking care to make sure nothing could be misconstrued or could scare children. For example, he never said that blood pressure cuffs ‘blow up’ because that may sound like an explosion — instead, he said it gets a puff of air. And his attention to detail in communication is something I think we could benefit from, for such a time as this.
How to Speak like Mister Rogers in 9 Steps
This is supposed to be geared for Preschoolers but I’m going to use a Not-Preschool example… but still try to keep it in a Preschool language. Because let’s be honest, English is hard. We thank Maxwell King from The Atlantic for publishing this article first.
1: “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.”
Example: It’s not smart to go outside without a face mask.
2: “Rephrase in a positive manner”
Example: It’s smart to use a face mask outside
3: “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.”
Example: Ask the CDC on what you should do when you go outside.
4: “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.”
Example: The CDC will tell you how to stay safe when you go outside.
5: “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.”
(In this example, that’s the word “Will”)
Example: The CDC can tell you how to stay safe when you go outside.
6: “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.”
(In this example, not all people fall under the jurisdiction of the CDC)
Example: Your national health agency can tell you how to stay safe outside.
7: “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.”
Example: Your national health agency can tell you how to stay safe outside. It is good to follow their recommendations.
8: “Rephrase your new statement (as needed), repeating the first step.”
(In this example, “Good” represents a value judgment)
Example: Your national health agency can tell you how to stay safe outside. It is wise to follow their recommendations.
9: “Rephrase your idea a ﬁnal time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.”
Example: Your national health agency can tell you how to stay safe outside. It is wise to follow their recommendations. Giving up a little bit of what we want to do, to follow their recommendations, is an important step towards maturity.
So that was cool and all because it’s frickin’ Mr. Rogers right? But I hear you asking: “So what?”
So what? Well, so that you can speak the truth, in a way that helps you connect the truth back to love, forgiveness, and growth. To speak truth without that, is to permit yourself to be an annoying jerk, to honor your experiences and interpretation of the world, which is not helpful or productive in cultivating a better world.
I want to end this letter by talking about a song from Apollo LTD called “You” and I attached a snippet below. You don’t have to listen to it but I ask if you’d be willing to at least read the lyrics video from the point it begins (which is 1:07 if I linked it correctly), up to the point the only word in the frame says “You”. Or in other words, I’m just asking you to read the second verse of the song & the chorus at minimum.
“Every story, every scar, you are loved the way you are — there’s nothing you need to prove. Cause Heaven knows your name, there’s a reason you were made, fearfully & wonderfully, you.” That in your struggles, in your frustrations, in your setbacks, there is nothing you have to prove. There is nothing you have to strive towards. There is nothing you have to fix. You are still loved, valuable, and meaningful just for being you.
Now read that last line again, not from your perspective, but from those you disagree with right now in COVID season. Heck, listen to that song again for that person you dislike. Whether we wish it’s true or not (I wish it’s not true personally), everything in that song applies for them too.
COVID is hard and there’s no need to point the finger and make it even harder. We’re all trying to figure things out. Keep your head up high. How would Mister Rogers communicate the truth in such a time as this? And when you figure that out, don’t start with the world, they don’t know you or Mister Rogers — start with your world. You can make a difference in your world with every breath you take. Literally.
A small quantity of wImagine Partners will be removed from wImagine by the end of 2021, based on their response to COVID-19.
To keep things fair and above water, these are some guidelines that will help facilitiate this thinking & prayer process.
March: Were you Ready to Love?
Around Mid March, the State of New Jersey and the Federal Government began closing down larger gatherings and high risk environments to protect the vulnerable from COVID. Questions I’ll ask are:
- Did you take COVID-19 seriously initially? Courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s the ability to name your fear, take precautions, and still stand with hope and strength.
- Were you swept by fear? Wisdom is best applied when it exposes the lies of fear.
- When did you stop? Were you forced to stop or did you choose to stop?
- Churches Only: Where were you when the COVID shutdown happened? Some Churches ‘coincidentally’ were midway in series or initiatives that magically helped them respond to COVID. ‘Coincidence’? I think it’s nailing talking to God.
April & May: Were you Generous & Wise?
Around April, COVID spiked across all regions that wImagine partners with in America and across the globe. During this season, questions we’ll ask are:
- Did you live your mission? Don’t be selfish, we’re in a pandemic, this is the time to live our mission.
- Did you follow all the best practices? We Social Distance, wear Masks, and encourage other best practices not because we’re worried about ourselves, but because we want to protect those who can’t fight back.
- Churches Only: Did you mobilize your congregation to serve the community? Jesus’ Plan A to save the world is through us, the Church, to love like He did. Was that love easy to see in the pandemic or did the Church keep to themselves & their budget in this time?
And Beyond: What’s your Mission?
As we step into the summer, we will slowly return to a new normal as a world. However, just because we can move forward, does not necessarily mean we should. Questions we’ll consider in watching how partners move are:
- In light of <where we are with COVID>, is re-opening worth it? Are you unable to find ways to honor your mission when the going gets tough or do you legitimately have to re-open with its risks?
- In light of <the current COVID best practices>, is re-opening worth it? Are you unable to find ways to apply your mission in a new era or do you legitimately have to re-open with its cost?
- Churches Only: I don’t care who says the Church can re-open, because as far as I’m concerned, the Church never closed. The Church has blossomed online from the 40,000 seat Partner (LCBC) to the 40 Seat Partner (Trinity Church; Clayton, NJ). In the chaos, Jesus stood up, and became the blessing. In our chaos, will the Church see the blessing in the now and honor their mission, or will they fail to see the blessing and seek a return to what was comfortable?