By Virginia Dawkins
The Meridian Star
“Dear Santa, my mom said to send you a Christmas list. I wanted a remote control car and helicopter, but I don’t want that any more. Kids at school are still picking on Amber and it’s not fair because she doesn’t do anything to them and it makes me mad. I prayed that they will stop, but God is busy and needs your help.”
Eight year-old Ryan wrote this letter because he was concerned for his twin, Amber. His mother recently posted it online to call attention to bullying.
Bullying happens in schools and on Internet social media, and it often causes teens to commit suicide. How sad that some children have a daily struggle to survive childhood.
Fred Rogers, a television icon for 30 years, was one of those children who survived verbal and physical assaults of classmates. As a young boy, Rogers was shy and fat. He was forced to run through the streets with a gang of boys yelling threats behind him. As he raced along, barely keeping ahead of the bullies, he knew that if he could reach the door of one of his neighbors, they would take him in. There was an older lady who always gave him safe refuge.
Fred also found refuge with his family; his parents were outstanding mentors and Christian role models. His mother enrolled him in piano lessons when he was nine years old. Whenever his anger or embarrassment reached the boiling point, he rushed to the piano and took out his frustrations on the keys.
In the midst of the Great Depression, the Rogers family accepted George, who was an orphan, into their home. George became the older brother who protected Fred from bullies. Although George was a black child growing up in a white family, this seemed natural to Fred who had been taught that God knows no color or race and loves all His children.
It was this event that gave Fred a desire to reach out to other needy and hurting children,
Fred graduated from college with a music degree which led to his first job with NBC in New York. He later returned to his home state and attended theological seminary. However, he had no desire to become a pastor. He believed the Lord wanted him to use the lessons he had learned in life to help children.
He believed that God had allowed the childhood bullying experiences and had planned the piano lessons, the music degree, and the television work for the purpose of leading him to the production of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The PBS program ran for 30 years.
Fred Rogers believed that each person is rare and valuable, and that each has something that no one else has. He gave an expression of care every day to each child who watched his show, always ending the program by saying: “You’ve made this day a special day by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”
Virginia Dawkins may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.