“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I called it magic water.


My parents separated when I was young. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather. 

Each morning, he boiled tap water, which he chilled overnight in a glass carafe. Each afternoon, he poured two glasses of magic water and turned on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.


Mister Rogers had a saying:

“There are three ways to ultimate success:
The first way is to be kind.
The second way is to be kind.
The third way is to be kind.”


A decade later, my grandfather was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS is a vicious disease, where muscles deteriorate as one’s brain remains intact. 

Before my grandfather lost his voice from ALS, he called me at 3:00 a.m. because he didn’t want me to pick up.

I still have his voicemail:


“Remember when we watched Mister Rogers together?
Soon, I won’t be able to talk. Soon, I won’t be able to move. 
But remember:
It’s you I like
The way you are right now
The way down deep inside you
Not the things that hide you.
I love you, Mikey."


Seconds before I came out of the closet to my parents, I replayed that voicemail.

To my neighbors, I will serve my grandfather’s magic water: a reminder to be kind; an invitation to be accepting.

— Mike Contillo