Mr. Rodgers and prayer
Some of you may be familiar with a story by journalist Tom Junod. It is a
true story of a young man afflicted with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy
did not affect this young man’s mind, but it affected his motor skills and
his ability to speak. The boy could only communicate through typing on his
computer. In addition to his physical disabilities, the boy suffered
emotional problems after some of his care givers callously abused him.
Overwhelmed with self-hatred, the boy often hit himself. Using his
computer, he wrote to his mother that he wished he could die.
There was one thing that seemed to bring the boy comfort: watching “Mr.
Roger’s Neighborhood.” The kindly, mild-mannered Mr. Rogers emphasized
that all people are valuable and worthy of love. His calming demeanor and
accepting message touched the boy’s heart and gave him hope.
One day a children’s foundation set up a meeting between the boy and his
hero, Mr. Rogers. Upon meeting Mr. Rogers, the boy became so nervous that
he began hitting himself, and his mother had to take him to another room
to calm him down. When he returned, Mr. Rogers carried on their
conversation as if nothing had happened. And then Mr. Rogers ended the
conversation by asking the boy a very special favor: would this boy pray
for him? The boy was floored by this request. Would he pray for Mr.
Rogers? He had always been the object of someone else’s prayers. But from
that day forward, the boy began praying for Fred Rogers, and he
experienced a new sense of hope and self-esteem through this act of
praying for a man he so admired.
When Tom Junod complimented Fred Rogers on this idea, Rogers reacted with
surprise. He had been sincere in his request for the boy’s prayers. As he
said, “I didn’t ask him for his prayers for HIM, I asked for me. I asked
him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that
must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”