How important you are

This unusual motto shows up all over this London neighborhood. Fred might love it.
Shoreditch, London. Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash.

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” ― Fred Rogers

“Mister Rogers wasn’t a relic of a simpler time; he was a warrior in one of the most turbulent periods in American history. And he shows us, more than ever, how to cultivate our own heroism in the midst of chaos.”Mary Elizabeth Williams

“…to think of Fred as a saintly person is to somehow absolve the rest of us from having to have a responsibility to live up to it. He worked hard at it, he struggled with it.”
Morgan Neville

As you already know if you’ve been reading this blog for very long, Fred Rogers is one of my great heroes. My nephew emailed me yesterday about the new documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” which I knew was coming, but didn’t realize had already been released to a limited number of theaters. Now I’m searching for: 1. a cinema where it is showing, and 2. the time to go see it as soon as possible. I can’t wait to take Matt with me to see it. He’s as big a fan of Mr. Rogers as I am.

It’s hard to believe that over 15 years have passed since Mr. Rogers died, but I remember having my brief letter to the editor published in the San Francisco Chronicle shortly after his death. (My letter appeared in the print edition, but it’s available online too; if you scroll down this archived page about halfway, you’ll see it.) So much has happened during that 15 years, but the essential message Mr. Rogers brought to the world is more needed than ever.

The trailer to the film is linked above at Mr. Rogers’ name. If you watch it, you might understand why I’m so eager to see the film. The other two quotes, from a film reviewer and the film’s director, offer additional perspective in the linked articles. The film was produced by Nicholas Ma, son of famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who was a close friend of Mr. Rogers.

Given the many times I’ve mentioned Mr. Rogers on this blog (including here, in one of my favorite posts), and the abundance of current publicity surrounding the film, I really don’t feel the need to add anything more.

Except maybe one thought. As Mr. Rogers said, you leave something of yourself at every meeting with another person. Many, many of you have participated in this blog to the extent that we feel we know each other. In coming here and joining the conversation, you have left us with a part of yourself. Something you’ve said may be important to people you never even dream of. And I know how important you have been to me. Mr. Rogers understood that all sorts of people can and should be neighbors. I think he’d agree that this blog, too, is a neighborhood…and I’m so glad you are my neighbor!


  1. I’m so glad you’re my neighbor (virtually in the blogosphere) too! So happy your blog popped up this morning so I could say Happy Monday to you Julia! xo

    • Misifusa, what a delight to hear from you! I hope all is beautiful in your world. Thanks so much for dropping by — and Happy Monday to you too!

      • It’s been awhile and we’ve lost touch. I don’t know why your blogs don’t come up in my newsfeed regularly. But I was glad to see your post today and be able to say hello and send a virtual hug. ♥

        • M, it seems I’ve lost touch with almost everyone lately– SO MUCH has been going on. I’ve just moved and I’m currently surrounded by boxes, busy getting the townhome ready to sell, keeping up with Matt’s programs and activities, and somehow, despite being exhausted and overwhelmed with busy work, I am still so, so lonely and missing Jeff all the time. I’m so glad you drop in from time to time, as I’ve had NO time to visit my favorite blogs, and I really miss everyone. Hope all is wonderful in your world. ❤

          • I miss you too Julia and hope that life continues to unfold easily for you. Best of luck with your new home. I think about you often and I am again so sorry that Jeff passed…so heartbreaking. Just remember your blogging friends (me) are still here thinking of you xoxo

            • Thank you, Misifusa. That helps more than you might imagine. Way back in library school, before there were web browsers with graphics and the internet was all text-based, I learned that real connections can be made online — that’s how I got my first job when I finished school. Some people can’t imagine connecting with others online, but each and every person I’ve met face-to-face after first meeting them here, it’s been like being with old friends. Thanks for being here! ❤

              • I agree with you! Blogging has connected me with so many friends like you. I hope one day we can really meet in person! ♥ Sending healing hugs to you xo

  2. Raynard

    Julia if the theme to Huckleberry Hound plays in the background. If a elephant can be in the room.I don’t want to be important just involved In the process of making it better.I told our pastor’s assistant when they were asking for volunteers the following. I don’t like being in the spotlight,I see something needs to be done I do it.Im the behind the scenes blue collar dirty job guy. Growing up in a family being the 7th of 9 children, I got compaired too much to the oldest my brother.At the end of the day I want to be known for doing the best I could and how I treat people Julia when that movie about Mr Rogers comes out treat yourself you and Matt to see it.Thank you for always sharing and caring. The best of the best is what I call your friendship.

    • Thank you Raynard, that means so much. Matt and I had planned to go see the Mr. Rogers movie with a friend last Thursday night, but a ferocious thunderstorm came up and we were afraid to drive in it. We still plan to go, though. I was the 3rd of 4 kids and I always felt it was good for me to be in the middle. I grew up without a lot of expectations about anyone making a big deal about me. What you said about wanting to be known for how you treat people reminds me of something Fred Rogers said once when they asked him how he felt about not being able to talk about God on TV anymore (in the beginning he was allowed to do it, but later they ruled it out). He said “there are a lot of things I could say about God, but in the end what will matter most is how I treat my neighbor.” In other words it’s better to see a sermon than hear one any day. I am looking forward to bringing Matt and maybe some others to the Shady Maple to celebrate your birthday at the end of July. Maybe we can talk Mike and Verie into making a road trip up to join us. They can stop off at my house on the way up. Come to think of it maybe lots of people here online might be able to meet us there. Surely quite a few might live in driving distance to PA?

  3. Ann

    So glad we are neighbors and friends even though we haven’t met face-to-face.

    • Thanks, Ann, so am I!

  4. Harry Sims

    Are we sometimes raised to “Temple Level”?

    Is an AA meeting place the same thing as a temple?

    Well we begin our meeting with a prayer, “The Serenity Prayer,
    It is usually followed by a brief protocol giving directions or suggestions for conduct of the meeting and other announcements of activities in other locations.
    The collection basket is passed.
    Then we most times follow with a reading which suggests ideas, followed by people who share their experience strength and hope.
    The meeting is closed with an invitation to join the fellowship with a “chip ceremony”.
    We have a reminder of respect for other people’s anonymity.
    This is followed by joining hands in a circle and praying The Lord’s Prayer.
    Then there are spontaneous hugs and declarations of “Keep Coming Back”.

    A temple can enshrine a people’s highest aspirations. It can be a place where generations rise from the mundane to realms of daylight, and then bring that light back to the realms of the ordinary.
    -Br. Mark Brown, SSJE

    Could I call my early morning prayer, study and meditation time Temple Time?

    I’m Harry, devoted twelve stepper.

    • I think it’s Temple Time, Harry. Remember what Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4. The woman to whom, according to society’s rules, he should not even have spoken. Your mention of your AA meetings reminded me of the one and only AA meeting I ever attended, to support a woman whom I met at our classes held at the Newport News maximum security jail. When she got out she stayed sober for as long as she kept going to the meetings. She spoke at one of them and I went with her. It was an interesting and good experience. I think everyone should go to one of those meetings at least once. The woman I went to see later moved away but I think she had quit going by then.

  5. Chris

    Hi Julia!
    Very nice! If we all tried a little harder to live by the “golden rule”, I’m sure Mr. Rogers would be smil’in. Hope you have a wonderful day! 😊

    • Thank you, Chris. When I think of Mr. Rogers smiling, it makes me smile too.

  6. Good morning, Julia! Thank you so much for putting together this blog posting! I’m smiling and crying at the same time, and I can’t wait to go see the movie, too!
    Thank YOU for being my neighbor!*
    *although I wish we were closer physical neighbors, I sure am grateful that we can be “virtual neighbors” (in the “garden of our mind”?)!
    That sort of brings a whole new dimension to the question, “who is my neighbor?”

    • Yes, it’s not hard to figure out where Mr. Rogers (an ordained minister) got his notions about who his neighbors were. That garden in our minds is lovely year round. If you look closely you can even see Mr. Jefferson strolling by in the distance, explaining his agricultural methodology to some visitor…

  7. Julia, A great tribute to a great gentleman.
    He epitomized the command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

  8. Mike

    Is the documentary on Netflix now.? I hope so.
    Am reading Nouwen’s “Letter of consolation” which he wrote for his dad 6 months after his mother passed.In this long letter-90 pages- he makes a point about how grief is a unique experience to each of us – as unique as individual fingerprints. I think we forget that sometimes, but we really don’t know what a person in going through at a time of grief and to say we do is presumptuous, Grief us really unique for each of us.
    He also talks about Leonard Bernstein and his tragic death? Not sure what that meant. In the Mass that Bernstein wrote after Kennedy was murdered, there is a scene where the Priest lifts up a glass chalice during communion, The chalice falls-and breaks into a thousand pieces. The startled priest, stops for a bit and then says, “I did not know that broken glass could shine so brightly.” Seeing the shattered pieces in the streaming sunlight of the chuch winddonw. Are you familiiar with this music?

    • Mike, I remember hearing about Bernstein’s Mass while I was in high school; I believe the chorale may have gone to see it, or done music from it or something, but I’m not familiar with it. I did read that Paul Simon collaborated on the lyrics to one of its songs. Yes, grief is as individual a thing as our relationships are. There are common threads that run through most marriages and hence most grief periods, but circumstances vary so wildly that it’s impossible to generalize about it. My position as a relatively young widow with a 32-year-old disabled son is unusual, but not nearly as unusual as the fact that Jeff was the one and only love of my life, the only real boyfriend I ever had, despite the fact that I met him for the first time on my 21st birthday. Because he was an introvert who preferred to be home, spending all his hours with us outside of his work schedule (he had no real hobbies outside of our projects around our homes), and also because of our mutual care for Matt, our lives revolved around each other to an extent that is probably quite rare. For some people, losing a loved one might be compared to losing a limb. In my case, I am emotionally far more analogous to the amazing young soldier I saw at Walter Reed, whose entire body had been amputated from the waist down (he moved about balanced stomach-down on a sort of cart). He was surprisingly able despite losing half his body…but it was hard not to stare. That’s how I feel. Half of me is gone, yet I must now do everything I was doing before, plus much of what Jeff did. The learning curve is long and often overwhelming.

  9. Sheila

    Good morning, Julia. Fred Rogers was so wonderful and his wisdom was remarkable. I’m excited to learn of the upcoming documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” I watched the trailer (several times) and found it to be a welcome break yesterday. We celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary on Monday! Not a lot of fanfare, whistles and bells, or gaiety. ❣️WE DID IT OUR WAY❣️We drove into Myrtle Beach for lunch to our favorite Diner, had burgers and milkshakes, listening to 60’s music. It was perfect‼️ I hope you’re enjoying your new home, with Matt. Love crossing the miles…..always! 💛

    • Sheila, congratulations! I had no idea that your anniversary was so close to the same date as mine and Jeff’s. Sounds as if you found the perfect way to celebrate. May you be granted many, many more!

  10. Rene

    Hi Julia, Glad you are my neighbor also, even if I’ve not been making appearances lately!

    • Thank you, Rene. Every time I find myself thinking of you, you seem to pop in to say hello. We really must have the neurological wi-fi connected! Hope you are enjoying the summer. Does your school calendar start back in August or September? Or is it year round?

      • Rene

        We start back to school in August. Meanwhile, I am in Bullhead City, trying to take care of my mother. She has been sick with a new ailment since December but didn’t go to the doctor about it until April. She is unable to eat due to a horrible taste in her mouth and has lost 40 pounds. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency on the part of her doctors but she has 3 appointments this week (but first, hair & pedicure today, priorities!) so we will see. I arrived last Monday. My uncle, whom Mom had been taking care of, was on home hospice after coming down with pneumonia the week before Memorial Day and passed away Wednesday morning. We are on hold about the funeral until the permits come through to have him returned to CA and their younger brother returns from vacation. Thankfully, my youngest sister flew in from Illinois on Saturday and will be here to help me ask questions and make demands when we see the doctors.

        Did I understand you as having a new job?

        I will be switching to teaching 2nd grade this next year; so I got to pack up three grade levels worth of materials and moved to a new class room before I came out here (not like changing homes but still…). I am spending any free time I have learning the new standards and planning (okay fine, and devouring the nine or so books I brought with me).

        • Rene, bless you for taking time to be with your mother when she needs you. I smiled about the hair and pedicure priority…I think that’s a good sign. I can identify with your mother’s neglect of her medical needs. In the nearly 21 months since Jeff died, I have let a lot of my routine care for myself fall by the wayside. It’s hard to feel a sense of urgency about anything related to my personal circumstances right now; perhaps your mother feels the same. Her time as caregiver to your uncle is bound to have taken a toll on her, and losing him must be incredibly painful for her. No, I don’t have a new job; what I do have is a new home, and I’m caught up right now with trying to get the townhome in Alexandria ready to sell, while getting moved into the new home and still taking care of the York home, which I know I will have to sell eventually, but one thing at a time…I hope you enjoy the transition to 2nd grade. I’ve known a couple of teachers who moved from 4-6 grade to 2nd grade, and both of them were happy with the change. I think second grade can be such a sweet age. I have very happy memories of my own second grade year. Actually I do think switching grades would be very much like switching homes…lots of adjustments, particularly if you had been teaching a different grade level for a long time. But hopefully you will be happy with the change eventually. Thanks for filling me in a bit on your life. I will pray for you and your family in the loss of your uncle. I’m very thankful that your mother has you and your sister to help her out. Going through these changes alone is pretty unbearable.

  11. Rene

    Btw, what is the significance of the trains?

    • Rene, I couldn’t figure that out. But clearly, based on the photos, they’re a motif that was connected to that motto in some way. When I saw that first photo I assumed it was a subway station or train station, but then there were all those others that were all different kinds of places. Interesting!

  12. raynard

    Julia, are you going to see the movie? It’s been awhile since we both had a decent schedule on Fridays or Saturdays. The trailer might be on youtube. Just spending a semi-quiet Saturday reading, listing to music and podcast on the computer. Did get one room straight didn’t to have the energy to put together new vacuum cleaner lol

    • Raynard, as I wrote in an earlier comment, we had to reschedule our plans to see the movie. But I have no doubt we will see it, even if it goes to DVD before we get to the theater. I can certainly identify with not having the energy to do too much at one time. I’ve found that I need to vary my task schedule and not work on anything strenuous for very long. Maybe that’s partly boredom on my part too. 😀 Hope this Sunday finds you getting some well-deserved Sabbath rest.

  13. Mike

    Julia. If you get a chance check out the new James Corden(sp?) car karoke with Paul MccCartney. I think you will enjoy it. It is a little long at 23 minutes. Kind of fun. Also Rolheiser has a column on grief that I would like your feeback on. I thought it was ok. It is at
    I will see if I can send you the link,
    McCartney talks of losing his mom at a young age and how she came to him in a dream state with the calming words,”Let it Be.” The rest is history.

    • Mike, how interesting about “Let It Be.” Since McCartney is not a practicing Catholic, I had always been curious about that song. I think many of us can identify with “hearing” (not literally) what we know our parents would be saying to encourage us in various situations. I went to the Rolheiser page and since I’m so late getting to these comments, I had to scroll down to read the one about grief. But I’m glad I did; I thought it was very good. I especially connected with these words: “We can go through long periods of darkness and grief where nothing seems to be changing, the heaviness and the paralysis remain, and we’re left with the feeling that things will never get better, that we will never find lightness of heart again. But grief and mourning call for patience, patience to stay the course with the heaviness and the helplessness. The Book of Lamentations tells us that sometimes all we can do is put our mouths to the dust and wait. The healing is in the waiting.” I surely hope he’s right.

  14. Mike

    As I reread the Rolheiser text on mourning, what he is saying in part is there is a big difference between thinking one’s grief and living one’s grief through the heart. It is one thing to think about it, and another to experience it in one’s heart and soul. I may be misinterpreting this,but sometimes we try to think through our grief and that is not going to work- thinking only.
    How far are you from Annapolis now? Another shooting? How depressing.
    We went to a famous Southern restaurant in Canton called ,”Queenies.” We had a smoked chicken salad sandwich and a fried chicken steak- for lunch -small portion. Sandwich was great and the gravy was outstanding. One of the dessert selections was a bacon praline cheesecake, also coca-cola cake which I know nothing about. The beans though- drenched in pork fat? A little on the calorific side. I hate to say it but the best vegetables so far were at the Chick FilA Dwarf house in Woodstock. Wonderful mac-and cheese and a sweet potatoes soufle that was to die for.For . Some reason I have gained about ten pounds since moving here.

    • Mike, weight gain is a continual risk of Southern cuisine, but worth every pound. Coca-cola cake was well known among my friends many years ago, but I have never tasted any (I’m not a Coke fan, and quit drinking ALL soft drinks when I was 18 and my dermatologist told me that, no matter what his fellow professionals might say, he thought that they were bad for the skin. But I digress. I’m not surprised that the Dwarf House had the best veggies. Some time you must get down to Hapeville where the original Dwarf House is located (we lived briefly in Hapeville when I was very young). Gravy is one of my favorite foods, and for me, meat, bread and potatoes are mostly media on which to ladle copious amounts of gravy. Brown beef gravy is my favorite, but I never met a gravy I didn’t like except giblet gravy, because my mother’s version included bits of liver — YUK!!

      Yes, thinking through grief does not assuage it– often it does just the opposite, in my experience. It’s a tough spot to be in for an over-thinker such as I.

  15. Mike

    If half of you is gone you need to allow at least as much as twice the time needed for any task, or maybe three times.

    • Thank you, Mike. I keep experiencing this truth but I need to remind myself of it again and again, to keep from feeling overwhelmed.

  16. Mike

    Hey Raynard has some Shady Maple invites on the UR site. Cool. In Lancaster, P.A?

    • Thanks, Mike, I’ll check it out! If you and Verie want to go, you are welcome to stay at my place — either York or NoVa — en route either or both ways, up and back. It would be too long of a drive for one day either direction. If you haven’t been to Amish Country yet (or even if you have) I highly recommend it! Matt and I are planning to be there at the Shady Maple to celebrate with Raynard, Mary, and anyone else who is going.

  17. Mike

    Very cool.

  18. Hi Julia !! I’m going to stop, sit and read all your wonderful posts until I float away (fill to the brim with coffee). I miss you !
    I watched the trailer and noticed it was released in June. I’ve not seen any adds for it here yet though. Did you get to take Matt and see it yet? I didn’t watch Mr Roger’s and I’m not sure it played on Canadian television when I was younger. We had Chez Elaine, Mr Dress Up and Sesame Street of course. I think there were only 3 channels until I was 13 and one of them was french.
    I can see why he became so beloved though. There can never be enough kindness in the world. xo K

    • Hi Kelly! Matt, Carla (my sister) and I did go to see the Mr. Rogers movie, which was playing at a really cool artsy cinema in Fairfax. It was wonderful, and of course I cried several times during the movie. Mr. Rogers wasn’t yet on TV during my childhood. We had Romper Room and Captain Kangaroo, both of which were good but nothing like Mr. Rogers. I came to love the show dearly when my kids were little. Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers were the two shows that we consistently watched during their childhood. In his own quiet way, Fred Rogers really did change the world. His influence lives on in countless lives, which I discovered during some of the research I did on him in grad school. It’s really amazing what fan base he has, and his admirers come from all demographic groups.

      • International appeal with no specific demographic is telling. It’s aways hard to say goodbye to the good guys x

        • Yes! As I’ve learned since Jeff’s death, nothing says more about a person than the HUGE yawning gap they leave behind when they go. The best we can do is try to channel our “inner Fred” or our “inner Jeff” so that their influence lives on!

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