“Taking care of you makes me happy, too.”

“Taking care of you makes me happy, too.”

People who spend time with little kids and PBS most likely know those words sung by Mom Tiger on “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” The show, the successor to my childhood favorite, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” is an animated and updated version of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

“Daniel Tiger” isn’t always my favorite. It strikes me as saccharine. But this episode — well, it’s just nice. The caretaking starts with Mom and stretches to several other characters.

Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister. No surprise that a reprise of his on-screen teaching includes a version of the Great Commandments:

“Jesus answered … , ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (excerpted from Mark 12:29-31).

Some people on the Great Plains are facing some of the hardest times of their lives right now. Fires in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas have consumed homes, grass, fences, equipment, livestock — whole livelihoods up in smoke.

As of this writing, five people have died.

I can’t look at the photos. Places near Dodge City, Kansas, and Amarillo, Texas, are places I know reasonably well.

The photos cause a visceral response that makes me very uncomfortable, and they give me bad dreams. It hurts to see people’s multi-generational operations or mama cows and baby calves burned.

Nebraskans know wind- and drought-driven fire. The 2009 fire that burned the hike-bike trail bridge near Fort Kearny comes to mind. The fires in the summer of 2012, mostly in the Sandhills, were disastrous with more than 500,000 acres burned.

We’ve had fires this round, too. I smelled the smoke from a small fire west of our house about 7 miles; it was caused by power lines slapping together in the wind. A friend in eastern Nebraska had to detour her bus route for a fire.

“Taking care of you makes me happy, too.”

There are good reasons the phrase hits home, and not just because I’m a parent to a minor flock of small children.

Where would we be without firefighters, paid and volunteer alike? Neighbors? Families and church families? “Taking care of you makes me happy, too.”

From individual businesses offering free trucking for livestock, hay and fencing supplies to large organizations orchestrating collection and delivery — “Taking care of you makes me happy, too.”

I doubt that many of the people helping the farms and ranches in the wake of the fires are thinking about Daniel Tiger — unless maybe they’re desperately looking for a way to distract small people while they cope with everything else.

However, I’d put money on many of these people starting from a place of faith every day, just living the Great Commandments in daily life. Even for those who don’t profess faith aloud — whether intentionally or just not making a big deal out of it — “Taking care of you makes me happy, too.”

This Soils and Streams column first appeared in the March 11, 2017, issue of the Kearney Hub.

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