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"Where did our friends go? We were having such fun! Now all of a sudden they're gone," puppets cried.
Wise Owl explained that their friends were not really gone. They had just changed form. His analogy was straightforward and easy to grasp.
"First," Wise Owl told puppets, "before your balloon friends arrived, they were part of Big Air. And when you all blew up balloons, you helped bring this Big Air into balloons. As Big Air came into each balloon, it became one of your balloon friends." Wise Owl tenderly explained to puppets that in course of living life, balloon bodies of their friends were punctured and their essence went back to Big Air. "Your balloon friends no longer need balloon bodies because they've changed form. But they're still around-in Spirit, in Big Air," consoled feathered sage. "Can you feel them?"
"Yes! Yes! We can feel them!" puppets exclaimed in unison.
The puppets' fears were alleviated. They understood that a person might grieve when a friend dies, changes form and goes away. But death does not mean end; it simply means a friend has changed form and gone somewhere else. Once again, Mr. Rogers' young audience was given an alternative way to perceive an important aspect of life on Earth. And, as is his special talent, Mr. Rogers imparts a more compassionate and life-affirming way to embrace life than what is shown in much of ordinary commercial television programming.
Years later, I was delighted to come across an historical fact that revealed more of casual, canny insight of this playful puppeteer. The word that Jesus of Nazareth used in Biblical times when he referred to death does not literally translate into English word death. The Aramaic word Jesus chose to use means "not here, present elsewhere."
The masterful way Fred Rogers used his puppets and scope of his understanding of human nature were never more evident than when puppets would counsel technical crew of his television show.
The crew-mostly cameramen, grips and technicians-rarely talked directly to Mr. Rogers off set. They did, however, mercilessly make fun of him behind his back for emotional and expressive way he communicated on show and in public. Fred was an easy target for crew because he was such an open and, to them, vulnerable man who wore his heart on his sleeve.
Amazingly though, while Mr. Rogers was rehearsing movements of his puppets before each show, these same macho, blue-collar detractors would surreptitiously sneak into television studio and ask his puppets for personal advice! Speaking through voices and personalities of Wise Owl, King, Squirrel and other puppets, Mr. Rogers would dispense guidance to crew members about extremely personal issues, such as being impotent or having serious marital or health problems.
Fred assigned me task of keeping everyone else off set until he, or rather puppets, finished counseling a worker. From a discreet distance, I observed these "tough" men cry and tell puppets their most secret fears and weaknesses. The men knew on some level, of course, that inside puppet was hand of Fred Rogers. The same men who would not talk to Mr. Rogers to his face would bare their souls to his puppet-covered hands! The genuine concern and compassion Fred expressed through his puppets to these workers was very moving to witness.
Later, in public, same crew members he had counseled continued to ignore Mr. Rogers, as if puppet encounters had never occurred. And Fred played along with their detached behavior, not giving any sign of personal connection with workers other than as ordinary members of his crew. However, I did notice that, over time, men who got most counseling from puppets participated less and less in mocking of their boss behind his back.
Fred Rogers taught me how to communicate in most profound and affecting way-heart to heart, soul to soul. He not only showed me how to convey messages through direct transmission, he modeled how to do so with clarity, love and integrity. By daily example with children and crew, he demonstrates how to use authenticity of intention to connect with other human beings on most fundamental spiritual level. He aligns his eyes, face and voice to instill a potent and consistent tone to his sharing. He utilizes his body and gestures to carry strength of his conviction. To express lightness and accepting nature of his presence, he uses spontaneous laughter, play, fun and humor. He employs music, poetry, art and dance to share on still more levels and reach a broader spectrum of children-of all ages! His carefully chosen words, stories and actions were outer expression of inner eternal truths that have served me well over years. I was, indeed, honored to hang with Mr. Rogers in his 'hood.
Drawing from the wisdom of native and ancient spiritual traditions, Keith Varnum shares his 30 years of practical success as an author, personal coach, acupuncturist, filmmaker, radio host, restaurateur, vision quest guide and international seminar leader (The Dream Workshops). Keith helps people get the love, money and health they want with his FREE “Prosperity Ezine” at www.TheDream.com.