Not too long ago, a friend shared an article with me about Mister Rogers. “Have you read this article?” she asked. It was an article that appeared in Esquire magazine, way back in 1998.*
That article was awesome. There was so much good in it. So much I could copy and paste, right here in this batch of words I’m writing for you. But, I’m going to go with these:
ON DECEMBER 1, 1997 . . . a boy, no longer little, told his friends to watch out, that he was going to do something “really big” the next day at school, and the next day at school he took his gun and his ammo and his earplugs and shot eight classmates who had clustered for a prayer meeting. Three died, and they were still children, almost. The shootings took place in West Paducah, Kentucky, and when Mister Rogers heard about them, he said, “Oh, wouldn’t the world be a different place if he had said, ‘I’m going to do something really little tomorrow,'” and he decided to dedicate a week of the Neighborhood to the theme “Little and Big.” He wanted to tell children that what starts out little can sometimes become big, and so that [sic] could devote themselves to little dreams without feeling bad about them.
Mister Rogers, of course, was a genius. We all know it. Anyone who has watched while Mister Rogers zipped up his cardigan and tied up his sneakers can attest to this. The shooting in Kentucky was a tragedy. It’s impossible to know what might lead a child to take up a gun and ammo and earplugs and wreak such havoc on so many innocent lives.
What is common to all of us, however, is the innate hunger to be noticed, to be seen, to be known.
It is the humanity in us that sometimes causes even the most introverted of us to crave a little bit of attention. Sometimes, what that feels like, is a desire to do something big. Not big and bad, necessarily. But the kind of bigness that looks like landing a book deal or a speaking engagement or a television contract or a score of new followers on Instagram.
Yet, over and over again in the pages of Scripture, we are called toward little.
When Jesus came on the scene and seemed to overshadow the ministry of His cousin who had been baptizing people in the wilderness, John’s disciples came and said to him, “Hey! That guy you baptized the other day is taking all your business! What should we do about that?”
John replied to them saying, “Listen, my job right now is to step aside and let Him take the lead. I’ve got to decrease so that He can increase.”
In the midst of this world that often presses us to desire more more more, what would happen if we woke up each day seeking less less less? Less me. More God. Less likes. More love. Less grandstanding. More grace. Less power. More peace. Maybe tonight, when we rest our heads on our pillows, our prayer to God might sound something like this: “A little bit less of me tomorrow, God. More You. For Your glory always. Amen.”
I don’t know. Call me crazy. But, maybe if we let God decrease us, He might also increase our ability to really see the people around us, especially those whose only desire is to be noticed, to be seen, to be known.
*A gentle warning: if you should look up that article in Esquire, be prepared for language that some may find offensive.