In his book, Dear Mr. Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?: Letters to Mr. Rogers, published in 1996, Fred Rogers included this letter:
One girl and her family wrote to tell us there was a special reason why she wanted me to talk about feeding the fish each day.
Dear Mister Rogers,
Please say when you are feeding your fish, because I worry about them. I can’t see if you are feeding them, so please say you are feeding them out loud.
Katie, age 5
(Father’s note: Katie is blind, and she does cry if you don’t say that you have fed the fish.)
Since hearing from Katie, I’ve tried to remember to mention out loud those times that I’m feeding the fish.
Life gets busy, we often find ourselves running from either one appointment to another or from one crisis to another. When I was younger, I remember a family member, much older than me, telling me, “Tommy, don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.” As a teenager, this meant absolutely nothing to me; after all, I’ve my entire life in front of me. Now, I’m in my fifties, probably more than half-way through my life, I’m beginning to understand the necessity to slow down and smell those roses. Perhaps my grandfather was actually on to something as he carefully, patiently, gently pruned his roses with me tagging along!
Although I still have aspirations from my younger days of being ten feet tall and bulletproof, things aren’t quite as easy for me as they were when I weighed a hundred pounds less and had about ten times the energy. Now, I need to balance the number of minutes in a year to the number of commitments I have in that year. I once attended a conference in which the speaker, Andy Stanley, said: “do for the one, what you wish you could do for the many.” In his context, he was speaking as the lead pastor of a multi-thousand person church, the necessity for him to find a few people in which he could pour out his life, so they could then do the same. This is the concept of discipleship. Christ also modeled this in his ministry on the earth; his close group, the disciples, numbered just a dozen.
Katie was a blind girl with a heart full of compassion for Mr. Rogers’ fish. She had a genuine concern about the fish.
More importantly, the fish were under the care of Fred Rogers; if he forgot to feed the fish, the consequences could have been fatal for them.
Each of us is called to be a mentor, a friend, a voice of conscience, a voice of reason, or any combination of these to others in our lives. I believe nothing happens for an accident, although sometimes I’m totally in the dark about it and must surrender all sense of control to God. Do you keep your life so busy that you don’t have the opportunity to disciple or mentor those around you? Do you keep your life so busy because you’re afraid to shed the ten foot tall, bulletproof exterior? Do you keep your life so busy because you have been hurt too many times to want to grow close to someone again?
There are 525,600 minutes in a year. Find someone in which to spend some of this time; the world needs friends who care.