Mr. Rogers’ Wishes for Chanukah and 2020

Most often there is the good news and the bad news when seeing two sides to a coin, or a situation or an argument, or a discussion or a simple experience.

I just came from grocery shopping and it is pouring rain in the Bay Area —and here are two sides to the coin: A month ago we were sweltering in high temperatures and fast raging fires that resulted in loss of power for days to many of us and evacuations (my daughter was evacuated!) and losses of homes, and now, a short time later, we are in below 40-degree temperatures, much needed rain but with worries of landslides, along with hail!

This is California, folks! I think the rest of the country believes we live in shorts, tank tops and flip flops all year! We don’t. We even have orange leaves on our trees right now! And my son had enough hail (snow by your standards — we hesitate to say SNOW!) in his front and backyards last week that he made a video, sent it to the Weather Channel, local NBC and CBS TV stations and because it was such an unusual site, they all played it with his commentary and thanked him by name! Hot and cold. Two sides to the classic coin analogy. (Later that night, like 1 a.m., my daughter couldn’t sleep so she turned on the TV and was shocked to hear her brother’s voice telling about his front lawn that turned into an ice-skating rink!)

So, back to my grocery shopping story: The local market is updating its look inside and out. They have no room inside for the grocery carts so they are all outside. After I parked my car, I grabbed one that was rain drenched and dashed inside because of the downpour. As I walked in, an older woman was looking around and asked me where I got the cart. I told her they are outside.

She made a “Humph” sound, so I said, “Please take my cart! I’ll go get another one.” She took it and walked off — no “Thank you” or “How kind of you.” She just walked off.

As I ran outside, hoping Noah’s Ark had sheltered the carts, I thought, “Humm, a simple gesture of gratitude would have been appreciated.”

On the other hand, several weeks ago, my 16-year-old granddaughter, Shayna and two friends, were out for Sunday Brunch. Milly’s Kitchen is a homey restaurant where there are long tables and benches where many strangers sit together. Shayna and her friends sat down among others at a table and began discussing some of the social issues they had studied in school that week. When they asked for their check, the waitress told them the two older women sitting at the end of the table had paid their bill!

The girls turned to the women and couldn’t stop thanking them for such a surprising and lovely gesture! Shayna asked, “Why did you do that for us?” and one woman said, “It was such a pleasure to hear young people have such an intelligent conversation rather than how much their sneakers or jeans cost!” My granddaughter said she will never forget such an act of kindness.

So here is where Mr. Rogers comes in: I saw the movie over Thanksgiving weekend and what a perfect time to see this film. The movie is not about a children’s TV character.

Well, it is, but on the other side of the coin, it is not.

It tells a story of a loving and gentle man who has the capacity to look into the eyes and souls of others and understand their pain and unhappiness with the ability to then give genuine compassion and loving kindness most unexpectedly. Short, simple and sweet.

It begs the question, though. How many people take the time and effort to really look and listen to others? Body language is a great insight into a person but you really need to be present and aware to notice the eyes, face, hand and body movements to get a sense of what is really going on within someone. Often, one does not need to say a word to show how they are feeling.

Having said that, do we take the time to pay attention when loved ones/friends appear to be “off” and dismiss any form of our concern? How many of us can get a sense about someone just from a telephone conversation or even a text/email? Have you ever hung up the phone after a conversation or reading a message with an impression that something wasn’t right? (My ex-husband called me the night before he committed suicide and while I could feel something was not right, I had NO gist of what he was about to do — it took years to get over that guilt).

And on the other side of the coin, we can’t be responsible for other people’s emotions and actions, especially if they don’t share them with us, but we can offer compassion when we think it is appropriate and might be needed. Just letting someone know “I’ve been there, I get it,” can alleviate one from feeling alone—a terrible emotion when things aren’t going well. It’s so easy to isolate oneself when you think no one cares, understands or is even interested.

And if we are conscious of someone’s “off” vibe, and ask questions that might help them share some issues or talk about their feelings while letting them know we’ve been there too, we can flip the coin over and let them know we are there for them, whether close or afar, they can call to express themselves in the moment or come over for a visit and a hug.

I do believe if we are open to our own feelings, issues, insecurities, pains and fears, we can better see the signs of those we interact with and turn the coin over and offer the best of ourselves. You never know when you can make a difference in someone else’s life. Even if it’s just for a moment.

I invite you, this Chanukah season and in the 2020 New Year, to be aware of your neighbors, family members, co-workers, acquaintances and invite them into your hearts and homes and share all that is good. Mr. Rogers let us know that we are all neighbors and should be kind to each other.

Blessings for a Chanukah season full of bright light, love, laughter and peace to everyone in the New Year. May kindness be the mantra for 2020, Thank you, Mr. Rogers!….with love…Sandy



  1. Thank you for commenting related to “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” We just saw it and i wish Mr./Reverend Rogers had received an honorary chaplains award. He was clearly a Chaplain’s Chaplain. To say more now should be a spoiler alert. I’ll say more later.
    Chaplain Barry E. Pitegoff, BCC

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