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One of my favorite Christmas gifts was the book – “I’m Proud of You – My Friendship with Fred Rogers” by Ft. Worth Star-Telegram journalist, Tim Madigan.
Those of us on this side of 50 likely spent a lot of hours watching Mr. Rogers with our kids. His calm demeanor and the kind and respectful way he communicated with children impacted several generations of children.
This book, however, is not about Mr. Rogers’ impact on children, but about his impact on Tim Madigan, a journalist who was sent to interview Fred for a story in 1995 and the transforming friendship they developed.
Throughout the years of their friendship, until Fred died in 2003, Tim faced the things all of us face – what Fred would call his “furies”. Marital problems, lingering hurts from childhood, the death of loved ones, criticism of his work, and depression. Tim shares with candor what he was going through and the wise, kind and encouraging words that Fred Rogers always shared with him through letters, phone calls, visits and e-mails.
My take away from this book was the power of our words. Not just how the hurtful things that are said that can wound a person and stay with them for a long time. But how a kind word, a word of encouragement, an acknowledgement of someone’s value can have such an impact.
I try to live by the adage (with varying degrees of success) “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. But Tim shares that part of his pain was from the things he DIDN’T hear from his father growing up. Now he had a good father who loved him and he knew it. But he never remembered hearing the words he longed to hear from his dad – “I’m proud of you”.
So on this side of 50, I want to make a point of telling people what they mean to me and not leaving things unsaid – thinking they “just know”. Which is all too easy to do with those we are closest to.Don't leave the important things unsaid, thinking that they JUST KNOW. #SayIt Click To Tweet
I recently thought of my husband of almost 32 years, Tony. I am quick to speak up if he does something that annoys me – to him and anyone else within a 20-mile radius. But I have never appreciated him more than I have in the last year with the illness and passing of my parents. His care of them and all the rest of us was selfless and tireless. Really, he has always been that way, but in times of trouble, you really see what someone is made of. And the harder things got, the more Tony came through.
Had I ever stopped to actually tell him how much I appreciated all he did? I’m sure I said thank you a time or two, but in the spirit of making sure I never left how I felt unsaid, I wrote him a letter telling him all of the things I appreciated about him. The list was a good reminder to me of his many wonderful qualities, because as I wrote it, the list got longer and longer. And I know that when Tony read my list, he felt valued and affirmed. And why wouldn’t I want the person I love most in the world to feel that I value and appreciate him? Note to self – make a point of SAYING how you feel.
I also wrote a letter to someone I had a professional “parting of the ways” with last year. Our parting was on a sour note. But the fact of the matter is, we worked together for a long time and for most of that time had a good working relationship. So before I closed out 2015, I wrote this person a letter acknowledging that while we had experienced a falling out at the end , there were many things that I appreciated about working with him and many things I learned from him.
I felt a tremendous weight lift off of my shoulders the minute I put that letter in the mail. I needed to go into the New Year with a clean slate, unburdened by the bad feelings I had when we parted ways. And the way to do that was to REMEMBER and EXPRESS the good. When he received the letter, he sent me an e-mail saying how much it meant to him.REMEMBER and EXPRESS the good. #SayIt Click To Tweet
So today, I’m going to take a page from Madigan’s book about Mr. Rogers and let the people in my life know that I love them and what specifically I appreciate about them. On this side of 50, I am more acutely aware that life is short. And I don’t want to leave this world with things that are unsaid.
How do you REMEMBER and EXPRESS the good to those you care about?