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Nourishing Neighbors with Words

I think we all want to do good in the world. It’s in our natures as human beings to desire to contribute something beneficial to our fellow man. We teach each other, create art for each other, fix each other’s cars, and wave at babies in restaurants. We try. But in this big, nasty world it’s easy to feel like our efforts just aren’t enough. There’s just so much to do!  

Public television’s Fred Rogers (Mister Rogers to most, and a friend and father-figure to many children of the ’80s and ’90s) offers encouragement in the 2003 book, The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember:

“Imagine what our real neighbors would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. There have been so many stories about the lack of courtesy, the impatience of today's world, road rage and even restaurant rage. Sometimes, all it takes is one kind word to nourish another person. Think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”

With that, I say, start small. Start with one word. ‘Hello’ will do. And see if it multiplies. Maybe ‘hello’ today turns into ‘hello’ tomorrow and the day after that. And then, maybe it turns into a conversation, friendly banter, or eventually a relationship. Even if it ends with that one word, it’s a word that is now spoken that otherwise wouldn’t have been. And that’s a good thing to offer the world.

Can you remember the last time you had a conversation with a neighbor? When you do take the time to nourish someone else with your words, do you find that it nourishes you, as well? As you walk down the street of your neighborhood, try to think of one kind word for someone you pass. Start small and see how it multiplies.

(Excerpt for this blog from The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by Fred Rogers, Hatchette Books, 2003.)

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