I occassionally write the letters “I P O Y” on the bottom of emails and other written communicationss to one of my sons. The reason for doing so takes a little explaining but involves Fred Rogers of “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” fame…
I never knew much about Fred Rogers until one of my sons sent an audiobook written by someone else (I don’t recall the author’s name) chronicling his friendship over the years with him. I don’t even recall the name of the book (unless it was “IPOY”) but it had a lasting impression on me.
I was surprised at how much I enjoyed listening to a book about Fred Rogers. I was impressed that how he projected himself in his television show is very much as he was in real life: Kind, gentle, compassionate, thoughtful, loving, and understanding–in life, and during his painful illness, and tragic death. He was clearly a man whose words and actions were in alignment with his vision and purpose.
I never watched his children’s show for more than a few minutes as I flipped through TV channels, but even in those brief moments of curiosity I saw a man who was willing to be ridiculed by many adults as he created a safe space for young children to bring their fears and anxieties and be comforted and be-friended as they became more confident and comfortable about themselves and their world.
Anyway, back to the audiobook: The writer was dealing with some troubling things from the author’s childhood that were having a major negative impact on his life as an adult. Though Fred Rogers had barely met and didn’t know him, Fred reached out and quickly became a close and trusted friend, confidant, and life and relationship coach to him despite the fact that during most of the time of their friendship they lived far apart so that most of their communications were via letter. The book appears to be largely based on those letters.
One of the issues the author struggled with was around self-worth. Fred began writing “I P O Y” at the bottom of many of his letters to the author. It was their short-hand for “I’m Proud Of You”. That simple lesson in kindness greatly touched the author and had a major impact on his life.
And that is why to this day I still occassionally write those four little letters at the bottom of my written communications to the son who sent the audiobook to me. I am indeed proud of him and all three of my children, and it is nice to have a way to remind him of that in a special way.
I hope it brings a smile to his face when he sees “I P O Y” and remembers a kind and gentle man who made the world a better place while he was here.