A Three Word Prayer

A part of Tom Junod’s 1998 Esquire article on Mister Rogers. Particularly the part that stuck out to me.

What did you do this weekend? I’m guessing you’re probably on some sort of modified lockdown like 90% of the world.

Did you spend the evening watching a movie? This week, and I watched Tom Hanks’ Mister Rogers’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood” movie that came out in 2019. I guess one of the good things about Pandemic is that you eventually get around to watching those movies or shows you never had time for when they originally came out.

I remember watching the preview while we were in the theatre for some other movie in 2019. (Feels like a lifetime ago, doesn’t it). Tearing up saying, “Let’s watch that. We should watch that”. But life does what it typically does and gets in the way. You’ll say maybe next week and that turns into two weeks, which turned into a month which turns into 3, 6 or 9. Then blink. It’s a year later or in this case, almost two.

Fast forward to the present, it’s available for streaming. Not sure what it is, but I’m crying through half the movie. So many tissues are damp with tears, so emotional. It’s not abnormal for me to cry a few tears, but I’m verklempt throughout the whole movie.

Who is this Lloyd Vogel dude? And why does he hate Mister Rogers? Who the f— hates Mister Rogers!?! A quick googling shows Lloyd is really Tom Junod. I continue to google and fall down the rabbit hole and find the original article Junod wrote.

I see why people love it. I see why it was renowned when it came out. Junod was a total skeptic but somehow he became a fan, a friend, a believer of Fred Rogers, or more affectionate know to generations of us as Mister Rogers.

I identify with Tom Junod’s desperate prayers and spotty faith. This isn’t a piece of writing about religion or faith. I don’t care who you believe in and what you call him, her, it or them.

This is about appreciation. Gratitude. Love. And all that good stuff that makes you feel warm fuzzies inside. We could use more of that in this day and age. I know I can.

I believe in something bigger than myself. I believe in God. I won’t get into semantics as this just isn’t quite the medium as I’m not in the mood to type much other than my thoughts and reflections on the three word prayer.

I believe in God. I’m not sure I always understand it, as it’s a complex idea about a simple thing. Or is it a simple thing about a complex idea? You decide for yourself. I’m not sure I’ve made my decision about it, come to think of it.

I understand tradition, structure and institution and those things have evolved to mean synonymous with God, but the really, it’s not. That’s further from the truth.

I believe in God, and I know I’m not always the type of person that shows it because it’s a private relationship. Like all good relationships, it requires work. Work, which I often don’t put inconsistently. Maybe I lack “that faith” (whatever that is), that “discipline” or maybe I have a one-track mind that’s often preoccupied with the living part of life. Maybe that makes me like Tom Junod.

I believe in God. Sometimes I don’t know how to pray or I feel like I don’t how to. I listened to Danielle Laporte’s “Naked Prayer”. Maybe I don’t feel worthy to burden God, with my spotty devotion. But something about that simple three word prayer seems doable. I can manage that. Thank you, God. When I don’t know what else to say, I can manage that. When I’m happy. I can manage that. If I’m sad, I can manage that.

There’s been a lot of mention about Gratitude in the last 8 years or so. That’s my recollection. When I first saw this the word popping up, in the pop culture lexicon.

Ten years ago, a friend of mine passed away from brain cancer. We didn’t even know she was sick. Sick again. She had cancer when we were in grade 9. She was always afraid of it coming back. We had lost contact for a few years before her passing (because: life).

So it was heartbreaking to find out she had passed. At her funeral, her boyfriend said every night before going to bed, she would ask him to tell her 3 good things that happened. Something about that has stayed with me a decade later. Gratitude.

Today, at the end of the workday, I ended up speaking to a colleague in what was an impromptu call. I needed to provide a complicated answer to a seemingly innocent and simple question. I wish everything was always so simple.

Somewhere in the two hour call, we discussed the practice of gratitude. I said somewhere a few years ago I made a practice of jotting down 3 good things.

Back in 2016, while visiting friends, I had a conversation with one of them who was constantly losing his shit. Too many changes, work was stressful, he was unhappy. You know the likes, life getting in the way. He started therapy but it really hadn’t made an impact.

So I told him, “Practice gratitude. Tell me three good things a day. Why 3? Because it’s manageable. On a good day, it’s not a problem at all. On a bad day, you can manage three. Even if you have to muster”.

Why should you do this, practice gratitude? Because it makes you creative. It makes you reframe things differently. When disaster seemingly strikes, you won’t go into meltdown mode. You will find the silver lining and find the might to keep going.

If your day is too busy, or you don’t have the strength to go on (which of us many are feeling a year and then some into pandemic life). When finding three good things seems tedious, you can manage a three-word prayer. “Thank you, God”.

And by “you”, I mean me.


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