A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: What Would Fred Rogers Do?

Many of you reading this grew up with Fred Rogers as a presence in your home. That wasn’t the way it was for me; Mr. Rogers always struck me as creepy, as the guy at the end of the block who gives out Werther’s Originals on Halloween and who always wants to hire young boys in the neighborhood to do errands for him. Something about that tidy haircut, the red sweater, changing his shoes when he came into the house… all of it set off alarm bells for me. 

But what really set off the alarm bells was his emotional openness. Raised by a single mother who didn’t have the capacity to express love or acceptance, I found Fred Rogers’ default state to be mind blowingly threatening. Grow up in a desert and you’ll have one of two reactions to the ocean – you’ll either fall in love with it because it was what you were always missing or its depths will terrify you.

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Witnessing The Unclaimed Dead

We stood, a hundred or so of us, jammed under a complex of blue tents in a thunderous downpour. This was real rain, not just LA rain, a driving rain that had turned the grass of the cemetery grounds into a sucking puddle of mud. 

At the center of the crowd, flanked by an underpowered speaker, was a small gathering of religious figures, clustered around a freshly dug grave. Inside the grave were the cremains of 1,457 people who had died in LA County in 2016 and remained unclaimed. The county held on to their mortal remains for three and, when no one was found or came forward to accept the ashes, they were buried in this small green space. We were all gathered there to put these people – our neighbors – to rest. 

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