When I read the reflections my students wrote at the end of last semester, I was surprised so many of them cited an article by writer Tom Junod as their favorite. It wasn’t because Junod isn’t a fantastic technical and creative writer—he is; I find him brilliant—but rather because they were so moved by Junod’s storytelling. Can You Say…Hero? is Junod’s 1998 profile piece from Esquire about Mister Rogers. That’s right…the late Mister Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, that iconic PBS show that lasted for decades. And some of my students barely knew who he was.
The article is a glimpse into the real Fred Rogers, and he isn’t too far off from the man we saw on television. Junod crafted a masterpiece, one filled with Mister Rogers’ beliefs, love, and charity toward fellow man. He was humble beyond belief. But perhaps what moved us most of all is the ending: a single prayer Fred Rogers urges the writer to say when he is at a complete loss. The prayer consists of three words: Thank you, God.
I found myself uttering those exact words yesterday morning as tears filled my eyes. I had to hold it together when a specialist doctor who examined my daughter for something the general pediatrician discovered during a routine visit told me: “She is fine.”
Immediately, I thought of Junod’s article, the power of spirituality, and Mister Rogers, who humbled us all and made us understand so powerfully what one little prayer can do.
Stephanie Verni is the author of Baseball Girl, Beneath the Mimosa Tree, and the co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice.