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What Mr. Rogers Reminded Me After Being Diagnosed With Parkinson’s

The Mighty logo The Mighty 6/18/2021 Charles Mickles
Fred Rogers standing in front of a building: Untitled design © The Mighty Untitled design

As a child, he walked into my living room each day and asked the simple question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” With his cardigan sweaters, sneakers and simple, quiet ways, he took me and millions of children down many paths of discovery. He taught us beautiful lessons in his quiet way. Each and every day, he reminded me I was special just the way I was, and this simple lesson is something I need to remember every, single day.

It was a simple song. No complicated lyrics. No huge orchestra. Just a quiet voice and a simple piano melody that reminded us each person was special. Mr. Rogers told us each day, in that beautiful song, “It’s You I Like.”

“It’s you I like,” such a simple message, a quiet reminder, that I was special just as I was. As a child, I will be honest, I did not always understand the importance of this statement. I did not always realize the power and significance of this fantastic gift. In one sentence, I was told I was not a mistake, but I was unique and significant, and that I had a purpose.

As I grew older, I carried this message with me. I was reminded often of these words, not just by Mr. Rogers, but by my parents, who told me over and over God had a unique purpose for my life. From the first days I began battling chronic illness in the form of debilitating arthritis, I remembered these words. I knew in spite of my challenges and differences, I was created special, and I was loved.

When faced with this latest diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, though, this was something I began to doubt. Self-assurance gone, uncertainty in my future, the pain of daily living all filled my mind. The doubt I faced because of the burden I perceived myself to be crowded this vital message out of my mind. All of these things combined and overtook my thinking, and in those moments, I would question how anyone could say I was special. Some days I did not see myself as unique, but as someone who was trapped in a broken body — what was special about that?

Mr. Rogers has always been a hero of mine and someone I tried to pattern my life after. It is ironic at a time when I was struggling, the love many had for this man was rekindled, and there was a revival of his simple lessons he shared with us each day. A few years ago, I was driving home, and heard a song I had not heard in a while. It was the song I referenced above, and in that simple song, I was reminded of those lessons I had learned so long ago.

In a time when I was battling self-doubt and uncertainty and when I was questioning how I could be loved, this man reminded me it was me he liked and there were many more who felt this way. Battling the daily pain, exhaustion and the struggle of chronic illness wears on a person in so many ways. It can cause one to doubt themselves and doubt those around them because of the burden they may perceive themselves to be. Even though this is not accurate or true, to the person in the struggle, nothing can seem more real.

Each day is a battle to see the truth and brings new reasons to doubt. As I sat and listened to this amazing song, I was whisked back to childhood, and again believed the message in these words. It was a message I had forgotten, and a truth I needed to hear more than I realized. As a person with Parkinson’s, it was something I once again needed to believe, and it is something each person battling chronic illness needs to see and feel again. You are special, and you are loved, just the way you are.

Sometimes, this is the greatest gift those surrounding a person with chronic illness can give. People in this daily struggle need to be reminded, even with their difficulties, they are unique, and they are liked. This is a message often lost in the pain, and one that needs to be repeated frequently. Sometimes, we think our gifts need to be big, but in reality, at times, the smallest kindness means the most and touches a person in a way they never expected. I have been blessed to be surrounded by people who daily remind me of this, and give me this gift each day.

If each of us were truly honest, this is something we all need and something we each need to believe about ourselves. It is something we need to share with those around us as often as we can.

Do you struggle to believe this? What in your life makes you feel unlovable and unacceptable? Remember, you were created special, and no matter your struggles and challenges, you have a unique purpose, and there are many in your life who like you just the way you are. As Mr. Rogers once sang to little Jeffrey, and as he would sing to each of us if given a chance, “I hope that you’ll remember, even when you’re feeling blue, that it’s you… I… like.”

Charles Mickles is an author, speaker, consultant. He has written, “Mine’s Parkinson’s What’s Yours?” and “What Christmas Really Is All About?” You can follow his journey at Day By Day: My Journey With Parkinson’s

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