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December 15, 2012

Josh Drespling: I bought the book for only a buck, but the content from an old friend is priceless

NEW CASTLE — I have found a new and exciting online resource for books. And I have spent way too much time and money with this site in the last few weeks.

The website is called Abe Books, and it has a multitude of new and used books at bottom-dollar prices. I just stocked up on tons of books, most of which I got for a single dollar, plus a couple of dollars for shipping.

I got a bumper-crop of biographies, because I can’t honestly stand reading any type of fiction. Being trapped in another person’s imaginary world is infuriating to me, but that’s the subject for a completely different blog.  

 The stash that I acquired from my newfound mecca of reading material is riddled with rock star autobiographies. I bought one by Slash of Guns N’ Roses fame and one by Perry Farrell of the band Jane's Addiction. I also snatched up one by Ozzy, Dave Navarro, and Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue, not to mention a yearning bio of Hank William Sr. I also grabbed a copy of Michael J Fox's, “Lucky Man,” which I have been told will be an interesting read.

Along with the batch of rock star decadence, I purchased one book that was quite different from the rest: “The World According to Mister Rogers — Important Things to Remember.” It did seem out of place with the collection that I had just amassed.

When my wife saw this title, she chuckled in disbelief. She even asked why I bought such a book. I just shrugged her off because I didn’t really know why I felt compelled to purchase the book. Maybe it was nostalgia or a unique interest in the man, or perhaps it was because it was only $1.

I was not sure what to expect from this selection. Was it going to be stories and recollections of Fred Rogers’ experiences or a rehashed history of his television years? I had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be a collection of soft-hearted passages and words of wisdom. The book holds expressions of human existence wrapped in compassion and understanding — all from a man who was somehow able to bear his soul in such a simplistic fashion that even a child could understand (maybe that's why I liked it).

These short, yet poignant, passages are analytical and expressive and reveal a deeper version of the televised version of Mister Rogers. He had pieces about friendship, family, and relationships, along with respect, adoration, and humility. This grouping of thoughts showed how loving and dear this Pittsburgh native truly was. His thoughts were wholesome and uplifting and, dare I say, inspirational.

Though the book never makes any reference to his successful career or his iconic status, it does help you to understand how this man was able to usher in an era of children’s television. He helped launch Public Television into the homes of all Americans with his neighborly nature. For better or worse, he was the building block of all the children’s and youth programing on television. Although future generations may have deviated from his original mindset and mission, he did lay the groundwork for what was to come.

I trust that if there were more men (and women) willing to express and share so openly with our children that our society as whole would be much better prepared to handle life’s ups and downs. His incredible simplicity exemplified what it means to have compassion and love for your fellow humans. Whether they be friend or foe, Mister Rogers found space in his heart to be their good neighbor.

Rather than try to explain how gracious this man was, I will leave you with one of his closing thoughts from the book.

“When I was ordained it was for a special ministry, that of serving children and families through television. I consider that what I do through “Mister Roger's Neighborhood” is my ministry. A ministry doesn't have to be only through a church or even through an ordination, and I think we all can minister to others in this world by being compassionate and caring. I hope you will feel good enough about yourselves that you will want to minister to others and that you will find your own unique ways to do that.”

 

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