Al Roker’s absence from NBC’s coverage of last week’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade made headlines, his first miss of the historic New York holiday tradition in 27 years. After being hospitalized for a blood clot, the popular weatherman was released and then readmitted for observation. According to reports, he’s currently resting comfortably under observation.
For people of a certain age, Al Roker is a television institution. Many can’t remember a day when he wasn’t on NBC, the network where he’s been employed since 1978. Beyond his morning TV slot and annual gig at the parade, he seems to show up everywhere – from major sporting events to late night television. He’s played himself in movies and loaned his voice to animated children’s films and programs. He was a regular on David Letterman, guest hosted Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! and has even hosted a barbeque show and several programs on Food Network.
Radio may be the most intimate form of mass communication, but television can make ordinary people like Al Roker into a household name.
Born in Queens, New York, Al’s mother emigrated from the island of Jamaica. His father, who was a bus driver, was of Bahamian descent.
Roker’s wife, Deborah Roberts, to whom he’s been married since 1995, expressed gratitude on social media for the prayers offered on her ailing husband’s behalf.
“Holding on tight and cherishing this moment like never before,” she wrote. “Gratitude isn’t an adequate description but we will start there. Brilliant medical minds. Loving family and friends. Unceasing Prayer warriors. So grateful for the top-notch medical care and prayer warriors from every corner. We love you dearly sweet Al and can’t wait to get you home.”
For the last two decades, Al and Deborah, along with their son and daughter, have attended St. James Episcopal Church.
“I was raised Southern Baptist, Al was raised Catholic,” Deborah told The New York Times. “We met in the middle.”
I suspect many people don’t know much about what Al believes theologically, beyond references to his upbringing, what he might share in social media or what a profile piece in The New York Times might reveal.
But earlier this spring, Al Roker shared a clip of his son speaking at church. Nick is 19 and on the Autism spectrum.
“Today I am 19 years old and about to graduate high school,” Nick said. “I have a learning disability, and I have worked extra hard to get to this point. This last semester, I earned all ‘A’s on my report card. It feels really good, but my accomplishments haven’t all been about school. They have also been about perseverance here at St. James.”
Understandably, Al and Deborah shared how proud they were of their son.
“I could not be prouder of who he is and what he has accomplished,” Al wrote on social media. “His parents are proud and I know his grandparents are looking down and are even prouder.”
Everybody has a story, and everybody comes from somewhere, of course. Uniquely gifted with talents from God, we’re also the product of the lives that have touched ours. It’s easy to draw conclusions about people we see on television, but the reality is we only see what they show us. You may see Al’s big smile, enjoy the banter between hosts, and maybe connect a few professional and personal dots.
But it’s good to remember that everyone is fighting a battle. Some do it in front of cameras or at least face public challenges like news of a hospitalization beamed to the world. Most others of us are quietly managing behind the scenes, far from any cameras or fans. Each one is real, and everyone who carries their burden is deserving and needing of prayer.