Just one year before his death, Mr. Fred Rogers, host of the long running and celebrated children's TV show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” gave the 2002 Dartmouth College Commencement Address to its graduates. Mr. Rogers, frail from the many years of life now behind him, stood tall at the podium. He looked down over the hundreds of students seated quietly before him. Mr. Rogers had one final lesson to share with them today.
Excitement built into air. The graduates sat intently listening to what Mr Rogers would say next.
Slowly, Mr. Rogers raised his right hand to adjust his small glasses on a now older, frail, and wrinkled face.
He leaned forward as he began what would be one of the last great lessons he'd share with a live audience.
Mr. Rogers said to the students, “I have a story to share. One of my most favourite stories I've ever heard.”
As he spoke, his weakened voice still delivered the same inner strength, with certainty and knowing.
In the same way his TV viewers always came to expect over his 50 years of children's TV programming.
And then Mr Rogers said, “I hope all you new graduates take what I'm about to say with you, as you all leave school and begin your next journey as adults in the world.
The story came from a recent event at the Seattle Special Olympics.
The event was a-100 yard dash, similar to what we've grown accustom to watching during the summer olympics, but this time the event was not run by the worlds fastest or strongest. This even would be run with those with disabilities.
Nine Special Olympic Athletes competed in that race. All of them so called physically or mentally disabled.
All nine assembled at the starting line with the hope that THEY would be the ONE to win the race.
So, at the sound of the gun they all took off, making their best efforts to run forward with all their effort and might, as they had been taught by their instructors, and by what they had seen on TV, at the actual summer olympic events.
But not long into the race one boy stumbled and fell to the ground.
The boy hurt his knee, and could not get back up. He's knee had given out. It could no longer support the weight of his body. His race, it seemed, was over. The boy began to cry as the others around him continued their run towards victory, towards the finish line.
But then something amazing and magical happened.
The other eight children, hearing the boy's cry for help, slowed down and stopped. One by one they turned around, and began to run back to the boy holding his knee in pain.
Not one or two of the contestants...
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM RAN BACK TO THE BOY.
The first to reach him, one little girl with Down syndrome bent down and kissed the crying boy saying “Please don’t cry. This will make it better.”
The little boy, thankful for her help, looked up at the girl and stopped crying. By now, all the other race contestants had gathered around the boy.
They helped him to his feet. And then, the next miracle happened. Realizing the boy was in no condition to run, all the participants, without hesitation, linked their arms.
Slowly, yet joyfully, they all walked to the finish line together.
They ALL finished the race at THE SAME TIME.
And when they did, EVERYONE in that stadium stood up and clapped and whistled, and cheered far louder than they did for ANY other race from the day.
To this day, those in the crowd who witnessed this amazing event still tell this story today, with great pride.
Mr. Rogers looked up from his notes and took a moment to look at the graduates listening intently.
“And that, dear Graduates, is the valuable lesson you all take with you.”
“Because as you already know inside, deep down, what matters the MOST in this life, is much more valuable than just winning for ourselves.”
“What really matters is helping others win too. Even if it means slowing down, and changing our course now, and then.”
And that is really the lesson here.
That the smartest way we can all work, or live, is by working together. Not against each other. And not just for us or our own needs. But for each other. With each other. Together.
There can be so much selfishness in the world that sometimes we forget that we are all on this journey together. That the things we do, or don't do can hurt others. That our needs are not necessarily the most important in every given moment of our day.
And so sometimes, we need a short heartfelt real life story as a reminder.
In life, there really is no better thing to do. And no better reward than helping someone who just needed a little hand.
Thanks for reading, and I hope this helped someone out there.
And welcome back to The-Inspired.com! We've been away for a while working on an exciting new project that will be coming in 2019. More on that coming soon. In the mean time stay tuned for more great stories to help you through your days.
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P.s. And if you've never heard of Mr Rogers be sure to to checkout his content free on youtube. Or a great new documentary on this incredible man who helped millions of children and parents understand the most basic and important principles of life and of love, for yourself and of course, for your neighbour. The documentary is called "Won't You Be My Neighbor."