Fresh out of college and packed for my dream job in Europe, I took a drive down to visit my great-aunt Vi.
I was caught off-guard by her enthusiasm for my continental venture. “I can’t believe I’m related to someone who’s doing something as exciting as this,” she exclaimed.
This from someone whose travels and life experience rivaled that of just about anyone I knew or have know since. I didn’t know what to say, but I felt so…significant.
(The dream job ended up being a nightmare, complete with monster. Oh well. A story for another time.)
A few years after that,
I was restless and bored one evening, and found myself, an established critic of soap operas, watching the Daytime Emmy Awards just to see if Susan Lucci would win Best Daytime Actress (this was a big question each year back in the 90s).
I don’t recall if she did or not – probably not – but I clearly remember that year’s Lifetime Achievement Award went to a man I, along with everyone I grew up with, had spent years mocking: Fred Rogers, of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood fame. I changed my mind about him after hearing his speech that evening. He spoke of his own childhood, and how his grandfather, upon seeing young Fred, would always stop what he was doing to tell his grandson his day was good because he was in it.
Those are good words. They reminded me of my great-aunt Vi, who had since passed away.
Even as I write this, there’s an internal rebuke:
I’ve dished out passive-aggressive criticism to two people already in this short piece, Susan Lucci and Fred Rogers. I’ve never met either of them, and never will (Fred Rogers passed away in 2003), but each has a long-established reputation of kindness and decency.
Who am I to mock others, no matter how lightly, just because it’s the popular thing to do? Simply reporting the truth is one thing, but the intent or manner with which it’s said is another. Look at how I talked about Ms. Lucci a few paragraphs back. It was true, but it really wasn’t very nice.
The first words anyone should hear me say about another person should be the best words. Realistically, I’m not going to speak well of everyone in my life all the time, but I want people to know who I am and where my heart is, and I want my heart to be in the right place. That place should be respectful and non-judgmental.
I want people to know me for my good words. I want to be remembered for making other people feel significant. And I want it noted both Susan Lucci and Fred Rogers deserve kudos for far more than just their talent and hard work. I’m a fan of them both.