Saturday, June 24, 2006
In six hours, a black Lincoln will pick up Chris and me, and whisk us away to LaGuardia where we will board USAir flight #267 for Richmond where our journey will commence. Actually, we've already departed wherever we are, or were.
The story arch of this documentary is all about the journey of discovery. In many ways, we have no idea what we'll find. In short, it is a connect the dots; how did Mr. Rogers become the man that he is, and how did he help other become who they are. Sounds simple, right?
It is a simple premise, except that, for Chris and me, it is all unknown. I have Googled and Mapquested, I have researched and read, but still, I have no idea how this story will end. It's like our own "Da Vinci Code," but without the murder in the Louvre. The north star of our story, the means by with we guide ourselves, is Mr. Rogers. Outward from him, dozens of bright points: Amy Hollingsworth, Bo Lozoff, David Newell, Bill Isler... how do they all connect?
Each person's story could constitute an entire documentary. Take Bo Lozoff, who we will meet Monday afternoon on his seventy acre ashram near Chapel Hill, NC. A '60s peace activist, Bo was visiting his brother in prison when he realized the similarities between their two worlds. Bo lived on a commune, tilling soil and living collectively. His brother worked in a factory and shared the yard. Bo was happy with his life. His brother was angry with his. And it dawned on him. Culture views prison as punishment. But Bo saw it as an opportunity to transform lives. A mission was born.
Thirty years later, millions of prisoners have been send free copies of Bo's book, "We're All Doing Time." His Human Kindness Foundation is a way station for ex-convicts, allowing them to transition back into society. Three years ago, funded in part by a small donation from Mr. Rogers estate, The Lozoffs founded a small biofuel refinery in rural North Carolina to give ex-convicts a space to acquire skills.
This is a man who walks the walk. This is a man who Mr. Rogers once listed as one of his personal heroes. And this is the man about whom Mr. Rogers and I spoke when we first met nearly five years ago.
I am anxious tonight. My ambition, or foolishness, has gotten the best of me. With no funding, no endgame, and nothing but a wing and a prayer, we are embarking on something much, much bigger than ourselves. Right now, we are staring up at a night sky filled with twinkling stars. Our job is to make constellations of them by which to find ourselves a new way home.