Mr. Rogers Weighs In On Doing Nothing
Ann: Mr. Rogers, would you please talk to me about Henri Nouwen's concept of being useless with God?
Mister Rogers: Fred, call me Fred, for, as we have discussed, there is no hierarchy in souls.
For many years I told every child I met in person and through the television screen, “I like you just the way you are.” This was my primary message to children, for that is what God says to us. He likes us with all of our dark places and our bright shining stars, with all of our strivings as well as our resting places. We do not have to earn God’s love because it is already ours.
I wish you had been one of those children, Ann, that heard, really heard that message, but that was not the message of your childhood. Indeed, in our world that is hardly anyone’s message. It’s get this done, rack up points for that project, don’t sit down, keep moving.
Ann: The central message of my youth was summed up by my high school French teacher, “Vous etes paressuese.” (You are lazy.)
Fred: And that is indeed the worst message a child could receive. What, I wonder, was that child doing with those stolen hours, that time where she was not attending to her chores, her lessons, or her scheduled activities? What was she trying to hear? What was she trying to see? What was trying to come into creation through her?
It is no accident that your blog is coming to fruition in this time of quarantine. Have you not wondered why you are so happy? You have nothing, the holy nothing as Richard and Henri and Auntie have described it, to do. And in that nothing you are finding your connection to God.
I believe that the worst thing we have done to the children of this age is that we have stripped from them the precious gift and challenge of doing nothing. It is just not easy in this society to let your mind go, to wander looking for avenues of wonder that you have never explored before.
Nevertheless, the opportunity for these moments is everywhere if we will just look for them. They can happen when we sit down and don’t turn on the TV or read the news. They happen when we drift to sleep, upon awakening or when attending to routine chores. One of my favorite times of day was my daily commute where I could let my mind drift as it would, where ideas, inspirations and connections were offered because I was in a state to receive them.
So now that you know what idleness is for, please do not let your connection with God become another chore or another obligation that you must sit down and “do.” You were right all along. “Nothing” is where the money is.
May 13, 2020