The Character Movement

What Mr. Rogers can teach us about character.

“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” — Fred Rogers

In this time of social distancing, it can be tempting to forget about the concerns of others and focus instead on self-preservation. Many of us are trying to regain our sense of security by shoring up all of our resources — money, food, supplies, attention … even as our patience for loved ones in close quarters may be running out. This is an understandable response, yet it is a poor way to live. If left unchecked, we’re in danger of becoming a mean and miserly people.

Paradoxically, the antidote to this self-absorption and potential harshness with others is the conscious and deliberate choice to be kind, which moves us beyond our own concerns to serve others. We are encouraged by those answering the call to character during this time with acts of kindness: people going grocery shopping for their elderly neighbors; the “Little Libraries” converted into “Little Pantries” for those in need of food; people sewing home-made masks and donating them to local health care providers; educators finding innovative ways to reach and teach their students.

I acknowledge that we all are stressed and stretched thin by our own concerns right now. The pressure can lead to emotions like anger, especially when in constant close quarters with loved ones. My wife, Jane, and daughter, Tess, and I continue to remind ourselves, “It’s ok to be mad, but not mean.”

Under our current conditions, being generous with our kind words, actions and resources can be incredibly difficult. But others need it. We need it. And with the limits on physical proximity ruling out hugs and literal helping hands, we also need to get more creative with our kindness.

This Week’s Challenge: When you feel stress coming on, do a simple act of kindness for someone you’re living with or someone in your community. See how that makes a difference in them … and in you.

How we respond during this time will define us as individuals, a community, and a nation.

Let us choose to be people of character.

 

Joe Cavanaugh
Founder & CEO
Youth Frontiers

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