Our Dark Horses series at church this summer has covered a lot of exciting people. Early on we talked about Gideon the wimp who won a war outnumbered 400-to-one. Last week we heard about a little one-handed assassin who escaped through a latrine and brought about 80-years of peace. With stories like these, it’s easy to think we aren’t accomplishing much.
But there are other stories. There are stories of those who had even greater success through consistency. In some ways these are boring heroes. In many ways they are encouraging.
Culture can make us feel like we are inadequate. If culture can make us feel unsuccessful, then they can produce a video and a book about how to become more successful, more happy, more epic—whatever that means.
Then the author becomes epically happy.
Some time ago I read a blog with the title “The Value of Sameness.” It featured Mister Rogers. I couldn’t find the old blog, but it came back to my mind because it fit our Dark Horse Hero so well this week. This week we have a boring hero—not the sermon, the guy! Anyway this same guy, when he died, left the entire country in mourning.
Like Mister Rogers, he did nothing epic. But, he was consistent and his impact was so immense the whole country mourned his passing.
I don’t know if any rumors went around after our Dark Horse Hero died, but plenty went around after Mister Rogers died. One was that he had been a navy seal who covered his twenty-five confirmed kills with commemorative arm tattoos. That’s why he wore long sleeve sweaters, you know. He wanted to cover his tattoos from the kids.
Why did these rumors circulate? I think on e reason is because we want to be exciting, and we want our heroes to be exciting too. We want to find out our parents are undercover Israeli agents with superpowers. We want Mister Rogers to be epic!
The truth is Fred Rogers never went into the military and never had a tattoo. His mother Nancy knitted his famous cardigans for him. He wore them in memory of her.
He wasn’t exciting. He was consistent.
What Fred Rogers did do was to graduate from Rollins College in Florida with a degree in music. Later he created Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and hosted all 895 episodes. He composed over 200 songs for the show and imagined all of it’s fourteen characters into being.
He personally responded to every piece of man mail he received.
He weighed 143 pounds when he was 20, and 40, and 60 and forever and ever amen. A truly boring hero, he said he did this for his wife, as “I” has one letter, “love” has four letters, and “you” has three letters.
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood started the same way from beginning to end.
He was a vegetarian who didn’t smoke or drink. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister.
He was married to Sara Joann from 1952 until his death in 2003. They had two sons James and John.
He got up each morning to swim laps, pray, and to “read the Bible and prepare himself for the day.”
He did do one exciting thing. He moved to Canada in the 60s. It was the CBC that talked him into putting his puppets down for a time and talking directly to viewers as Mister Rogers. Good things come from Canada.
During his mostly (Canada aside) non-epic life, he received 40 honorary degrees, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame.
Fred Rogers often spoke at commencement ceremonies where he would ask for a time of silence to remember the people who invested in our lives. When he received his Lifetime Achievement Emmy, he did it again. If you watch the above link, you will see what is truly epic about the man. He really seems to put into practice, “they will know you are Christians by your love.”
He wasn’t exciting. He was consistent. And for me, that is encouraging.
Our dark horse hero this week?
From age 30 to age 90 1Samuel 7:15 (NIV2011) Samuel continued as Israel’s leader all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he went on a circuit from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah, judging Israel in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah, where his home was, and there he also held court for Israel. And he built an altar there to the LORD.
1Samuel 28:3 (NIV2011) Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah.