But the Esquire passage I found most poignant and revealing was this one: Mister Rogers' visit to a teenage boy severely afflicted with cerebral palsy and terrible anger. One of the boys' few consolations in life, Junod wrote, was watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood. 'At first, the boy was made very nervous by the thought that Mister Rogers was visiting him. He was so nervous, in fact, that when Mister Rogers did visit, he got mad at himself and began hating himself and hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room and talk to him. Mister Rogers didn't leave, though. He wanted something from the boy, and Mister Rogers never leaves when he wants something from somebody. He just waited patiently, and when the boy came back, Mister Rogers talked to him, and then he made his request. He said, 'I would like you to do something for me. Would you do something for me?' On his computer, the boy answered yes, of course, he would do anything for Mister Rogers, so then Mister Rogers said: I would like you to pray for me. Will you pray for me?' And now the boy didn't know how to respond. He was thunderstruck... because nobody had ever asked him for something like that, ever. The boy had always been prayed for. The boy had always been the object of prayer, and now he was being asked to pray for Mister Rogers, and although at first he didn't know how to do it, he said he would, he said he'd try, and ever since then he keeps Mister Rogers in his prayers and doesn't talk about wanting to die anymore, because he figures if Mister Rogers likes him, that must mean that God likes him, too.As for Mister Rogers himself... he doesn't look at the story the same way the boy did or I did. In fact, when Mister Rogers first told me the story, I complimented him on being smart - for knowing that asking the boy for his prayers would make the boy feel better about himself - and Mister Rogers responded by looking at me first with puzzlement and then with surprise. 'Oh heavens no, Tom! I didn't ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.
What's been important in my understanding of myself and others is the fact that each one of us is so much more than any one thing. A sick child is much more than his or her sickness. A person with a disability is much, much more than a handicap. A pediatrician is more than a medical doctor. You're MUCH more than your job description or your age or your income or your output.