Thursday, August 23, 2012

PBS in my DNA

I’m a full-time journalist and about to be a published novelist, and I’m just now realizing how much PBS made me a part of who I am.

My earliest years are a combination of “Sesame Street” and “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood,” both ingrained in me so deeply that lines from different segments will still float through my head occasionally. It’s a standard line now that both shows make education seem fun, but they also taught me things I never found in a textbook. Through those shows, I found out that words have a wonderful rhythm that can be as fun to play with as any toy. I found out that everyone has their own story to share, and you can find out the most wonderful things if you’re just brave enough to ask a question. I learned that it’s okay to be scared, but that things will probably work out if you take a deep breath and jump in.

Then there was Bob Ross. I’ve never really painted, and most certainly not with oils, but when I was a kid he was the only creative person I knew. In a way, he opened up the entire world of creativity for me. You could watch him paint these beautiful, complicated scenes, and he would break it all down into these simple-sounding steps that made it seem like anyone could make something that beautiful and complicated. I know Ross really believed that, and he was warm and encouraging enough to feel like the kindest, most loving teacher in the world. There were no mistakes, only “happy accidents” that you could turn into something wonderful. On a more fundamental level, the fact that he loved what he was doing radiated out of him every second he was onscreen.

Bob Ross might not have succeeded in teaching me how to paint, but he definitely taught me that making something out of nothing is one of the happiest, most welcoming experiences a human being can have. How was I supposed to say no to that?

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