Friday, November 10, 2006
I find myself moved to near-tears more and more often these days as I experience mini-epiphanies in the strangest places at the strangest times.
Example: This morning, I'm riding the 4 train downtown. I'm finishing up Tim Russert's book, "Big Russ & Me," in preparation for Monday's interview. Over and over I notice an overlap between Tim's upbringing and my own: Middle American childhood (Tim in Buffalo, me in Chicago), the positive influence of the faith (he attended a Jesuit high school and college, I was an alter boy), and an appreciation of simplicity.
And it struck me this morning, somewhere between 57th and 42d Streets, that our documentary is really an exploration of these themes: values, faith, simplicity, and the men and women who espouse them -- like Tim Russert, Bo Lozoff, Marc Brown, and Susan Stamberg.
But that's not what moves me. What moves me is when I connect the great loss in my life, and the first conversation that really bonded Fred and me -- his gentle inquiry into my parent's divorce -- with this project.
What moves me is when it occurs to me that Mister Rogers was, in his own way, leading me down a path towards healing, towards becoming a better man.
What moves me is when it occurs to me that -- intuitively or consciously -- Fred knew that I needed elder role models.
Intuitively or consciously, in saying "Spread the message," Fred set me on a path towards a deeper, more meaningful, more adult life. He was helping me fill an empty spot: the spot where my grandfathers never were, and where -- despite his best efforts -- my father couldn't be; geography prohibited it.
In doing so, he is helping me right myself for my children, and, if this film sees the light of day, or the inside of a theater, other people's children.
Pretty amazing stuff. Could make a guy tear up behind his sunglasses and iPod.