I met Fred Rogers, the children’s television icon, on a newspaper assignment in the fall of 1995. Several months later, I sent him this letter and received his famous reply.
June 22, 1996
… I have something to ask of you.
The last several years have been a very profound time of intense personal pain and great healing, a time of great self-discovery as I’ve tried to come to terms with the realities of my life — past and present. At the forefront of my mind and soul right now is how hard I’ve tried to get my dad to be proud of me through sports, through school, through the way I tried to be obedient and good. But no matter what I did it never seemed enough. I could never wrest from him the love and sense of acceptance from him that I so craved as a child, and have been craving ever since.
I realize now that God is the ultimate source for that kind of love and acceptance. But I have also realized that I have gravitated toward older men in my life, without really knowing why. Now I think I do …
I read Henri Nouwen this morning and several chapters in (the book of) Matthew, and meditated for a long time on my pain, and realized what I need to do. It is this. There are several men older than me who have become very important in my life. And one by one, I plan to ask them this: “Will you be proud of me?
That is the question I have of you this morning, Fred. Will you be proud of me? It would mean a great deal if you would. I have come to love you in a very special way. In your letters, and during our brief time together in Pittsburgh, you have done so much to teach me how to be a person and a man. And now I have this favor to ask of you.
Will you be proud of me?
With much love and gratitude,
— — —
July 1, 1996
The answer to your question is
I will be proud of you. I am proud of you. I have been proud of you since first we met. I’m deeply touched that you would offer so much of yourself to me, and look forward to knowing all that you would care to share in the future. Nothing you could tell me could change my YES for you. Please remember that.
… I wonder if you realize how special you really are. Your place in this life is unique — absolutely unique. I feel blessed to be one of your friends. Only God can arrange such mutually trusting relationships — for sure! For sure!!
YES, Tim, YES
(From the book “I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers.”)