This a pretty late suggestion, but there’s still time if you live in the US or Canada.
It will be a late date in Europe and the UK – but you guys are used to that.
As for Asia, Australia and New Zealand, I don’t have a clue. It’s either tomorrow already or it’s still yesterday. I can never figure out the time zones.
Anyway before I make my suggestion – it’s a rather unorthodox one – let me give some context.
I spent my high school years in the Bronx…in the 1970s…when the place was continuously on fire.
It wasn’t a question of “Will there be a fire today?” It was “How many fires will there be today? And how many buildings will burn to the ground because the fire trucks didn’t make it in time?”
My particular neighborhood wasn’t that bad (though we did routinely find hypodermic needles in my grandma’s garden), but on my way to and from high school every day I had to pass through what Time Magazine later called “The Most Dangerous Square Mile in America.”
Of course, that’s typical news media hyperbole, but it definitely was not the safest square mile in America.
I learned five things from the experience of growing up in that place and in those times that serve me to this day:
1. Turn on – and keep on – your 360 degree radar. All wild animals have it. Human beings are born with it too but many turn theirs off.
2. Don’t get into arguments, let alone fights, with people you don’t know. That stranger you’re exchanging words with might have killed someone last week and there’s no reason you can’t be next.
3. Don’t be an *sshole. *ssholes typically end up pissing off the wrong person at the wrong time and getting a Bronx-style beat down. A Bronx-style beat down is something you definitely do not want.
4. Don’t be weak and don’t look weak.
This is especially important when you’re crossing a pedestrian bridge over a highway late and night, five guys are walking towards you (the only people around anywhere) and one of them says: “Let’s mess with that guy.”
5. Don’t take advantage of people. The environment already has a surplus of dirt bags. It doesn’t need another one.
I hope most people who know me will agree that I’m a friendly, helpful guy.
But I’m not a touchy-feely guy.
So don’t laugh when I make this suggestion for Valentine’s Day.
Grab somebody you love – your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your kids, even grandma and grandpa and watch…
Don’t laugh now…
My recommendation for Valentine’s Day is…
Watch “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the documentary about Fred Rogers.
I don’t know if the show the documentary is based on – “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” – is on TV any more.
I was a little too old for it when it was (though, strangely I can sing the entire theme song without missing a word.)
But “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood” was a beautiful show and Fred Rogers was a beautiful guy.
Yes, it’s very easy to make fun of him – and a lot of low rent comedians did.
He was an easy target.
But what was he all about?
In the total wasteland that was and is television, and in a world gives that small children the short end of the stick at every turn, he was a champion of television that met small children where they were and lifted them up.
There was no “market” for what he did.
There was no consensus that it was needed.
His first television program had a budget of $30 per show – but he persisted.
Childhood is a lot more difficult that most of us remember and life is more difficult that most of us admit.
We could all probably stand to give each other – and ourselves – a break.
And it takes a man with real backbone to be an advocate for decency and kindness.
You can watch the story of Rogers’ life and work on HBO. The documentary is called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
- Ken McCarthy