short excerpts...other writings...upon occasion or as prompted...
The tiger in the water? A representation of my life -- spirit and environment!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Ask the Busiest Person

There is a saying that if you want to get something done, ask the busiest person around. That seems to be true. Moreover, it seems that busy people often do not have to be asked for help. They see the need and volunteer. Perhaps that is why they are so busy.

When my children were small, I was a graduate student and teaching fellow at Renboro University. Although it would have been nice to have a nanny for the children, as a graduate student I could not afford one. Nor could I afford a babysitter just for the "luxury" of using the library. There were a dozen reasons, other than teaching and attending class, for being at the university. My children were too small to leave alone, so I often took them and all their paraphernalia with me.

Finding parking on Fifth Avenue near the university was always difficult. All the parking spaces were set up for parallel parking, and I drove a 17-foot van. It was the smallest vehicle that could carry my children and their medical supplies.

One day I found a parking space, but I just could not get the angle right. I tried one way. I tried another way. I knew the van should just fit into the available space, but nothing seemed to work.

Then I heard a tapping on one of the passenger windows and a question "Do you need some help?" spoken in a clearly enunciated and deliberate tone.

To my children's delight, knocking at the window was Fred Rogers, who filmed his show, Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, down the street from the Cathedral of Learning, where I taught. In a quiet, measured manner, reminiscent of his persona on the television show, he helped me park the car, saying "turn the wheel, like this," demonstrating with his hands.

After a few minutes, the car was in the slot. Mr. Rogers smiled, waved, and walked on, much like he did on his television show.

I am not the only person to have had this kind of experience with Fred Rogers. Others who know him have said that he is the persona in person that he is on Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Moreover, he has made films for Children's Hospital to help children feel more comfortable in a hospital environment and has found a myriad other ways to help his "neighborhood."

People like Fred Rogers are very special. Finding time to stop and help someone park is a small act of kindness, perhaps of little significance to the person offering the help but of great significance to the person needing the help.

Some time ago I needed to recruit an advisory group to answer questions for graduate students in a national newsletter column on a regular basis. I immediately went to the most senior and busiest people in the profession, knowing that they had little time to add yet another project to their schedule. Nonetheless, 90% of them said yes. Had I asked less busy people, that percentage would very likely have been much lower.

You can tell the busiest people right away. They are the ones who almost always stop to smell the roses -- and help out the gardener.


Excerpted and adapted from a collection of vignettes, copyright 2003.


  1. Mr Rogers always amazed me. Did you know he was a war veteran? One truly fantastic man who has touched many lives.

  2. Yes, I did know that, Gail, but I don't think many people do.


About Me

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I am the mother of 4 birth children (plus 3 others who lived with us) and grandmother of 2, all of them exceptional children. Married for 42 years, I grew up in Maine, live in California, and work in many places in education, linguistics, and program management. In my spare time, I rescue and tame feral cats and have the scars to prove it. A long-time ignorantly blissful atheist converted by a theophanic experience to Catholicism, I am now a joyful catechist. Oh, I also authored a dozen books, two under my pen name of Mahlou (Blest Atheist and A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God).

My Other Blogs

100th Lamb. This is my main blog, the one I keep most updated.

The Clan of Mahlou
. This is background information about various members of the extended Mahlou family. It is very much a work still in progress. Soon I will begin posting excerpts from a new book I am writing, Raising God's Rainbow Makers.

Modern Mysticism. This blog discusses the mystical in our pragmatic, practical, realistic, and rational 21st century world and is to those who spend some or much of their time in an irrational/mystical relationship with God. If such things do not strain your credulity, you are welcome to follow the blog and participate in it.

Recommended Reading List

Because I am blog inept, I don't quite know how to get a reading list to stay at the end of the page and not disappear from sight. Therefore, I entered it as my first post. I suppose that is not all that bad because readers started commenting about the books, even suggesting additional readings. So, you can participate with others in my reading list by clicking here.
I do post additional books as I read them and find them to be meaningful to me, and therefore, hopefully, meaningful to you. One advantage of all the plane traveling I do is that I acquire reading time that I might not otherwise take.