As a youngster, there was nothing I liked better
than Sunday aftrnoons at my grandfather's farm in western Pennsylvania. Surrounded
by miles of winding stone walls, the house and barn provided endless hours of
fun for a city kd like me. I was used to neat-as-a-pin parlors that seemed to
whisper, "Not to be touched!"
I can still remember one afternoon
when I was eight years old. Since my first visit to the farm, I'd wanted more
than anything to be allowed to climb the stone walls surrounding the property.
My parents would never approve. The walls were old; some stones were missing,
othrs loose and crumbling. Stil, m yearning to scramble across those walls grew
so strong that finally, one spring afternoo, I summoned all my courage and entered
the living room, where the adults had gathered after Sunday dinner.
"i, uh--I wanna climb the stone wall,
" i said hesitantly. Everyone looked up. "Can I climb the stone walls?" Instantly
a chorus went up from the women in the room."Heavens, no!" they cried in dismay.
"You'll hurt yourself!" I wasn't too disappointed; the response was just as
I'd expected. But before I could leave the room, I was stopped by my grandfather's
booming voice. "Now hold on just a minute, " I heard him say." Let the boy climb
the stone wall. he has to learn to do thins for himself."
"Scoot," he said to me with a wink, "And
come and see me when you get back." For the next two and a half hours I climbed
those old walls--and had the time of my life. Later I met with my grandfather
to tell him about my adventures. I'll never forget what he said. "Fred," he
said , grinning, "you made this day a special day just by being yourself. Always
remember, there's only one person in this whole world like you, and I like you
exactly as you are."
many years have passed since then, and today
I host the television program Mister Rogers' neighborhood, seen by millions
of children throughout America. There have been changes over the years, but
one thing remains the same: my message to children at the end of almost every
visit."There's only one person in this whole world like you, " the kids can
count on hearing me say, "and people can like you exactly as you are."