Well, hello there, dear Neighbor!
Uniting a divided world by Mister Rogers’ example
I was very lucky to have been born and raised in the United States. I say this for several reasons, but maybe not the reasons that first come to people’s minds. Nothing to do with the myth of living in a ‘free world’ or the ‘land of opportunities’.
No, one of the main reasons is that I grew up in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood. Like millions of other children and parents across the country. Seven million viewers tuned in each week from February 19, 1968 – August 31, 2001 to learn valuable lessons. Thirty-three years of him touching our lives in a miraculous way. I’m truly grateful for what he still teaches me.
His main intention for every show was to “strengthen a child’s sense of self-esteem“, providing me with a safe place from the hardships I personally faced as a child.
His important messages live on to help people of all ages deal with the struggles of life at The Fred Rogers Center and in film.
This past Sunday, I was transported back in time of good childhood memories while watching Tom Hanks portray him in the must-see film: ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood‘.
Mr. Nice Guy plays the King of Kindness. An obvious choice.
Since my non-US American friends have never heard of Mister Rogers, I felt the calling to introduce them to one of the most respectable and kind humans who walked on this Earth.
Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.
What can we Learn from Mister Rogers?
Oh, a whole lot! Let’s unwrap the enormous gift he gave to us. Just being around him made everyone feel safe and understood.
Mister Rogers sends you these messages:
- You are special, valued and accepted, just the way you are. You have an enormous uniqueness about you. And because we are human, nobody is perfect.
- It’s also OK to have feelings. There are no ‘shoulds’ or ‘should nots’ when it comes to feelings. He encouraged kids to talk about their feelings so that they could manage them better because “Whatever is mentionable can be more manageable.” He also showed kids healthy ways to handle their feelings, such as playing the lower keys on the piano.
- You can make a difference. Little things can also make a big impact.
- Be present and make each moment the most important moment in your life at that particular time. Whenever Fred Rogers was engaging with people, he made it a point to be fully engaged with them. His mind wasn’t racing on what happened earlier that day or what else he needed to do. His time was spent most wisely concentrating on the present and the company he was with.
- Treat everyone around you with respect. Everyone is valued and has a voice, just like you. This philosophy was broadened to include animals. He became a vegetarian in the early 70s and often said: “I don’t want to eat anything that has a mother.” He also told the Vegetarian Times in a 1983 interview the reason why he didn’t eat meat: “Part of it has to do with the animals — it’s hard to eat something you’ve seen walking around.” Amen.
- Make each day special. No matter what happens, it’s the little things that make your day wonderful.
- Enjoy mealtime together to share experiences of the day with your family. This was most important for my parents as well. We were lucky to have a dad who, despite working in New York City, was still able to be home in time for dinner every single evening.
- Keep your imagination alive. Mister Rogers gave us a sense of curiosity and wonder, important values that are needed now more than ever as children are becoming ‘adults’ too soon in our world today.
- Be ready for change and new experiences. He helped us prepare for the unexpected by showing us that change is a normal part of growing up and life in general. What seem to be non-traumatic events for adults like getting a haircut or going to the dentist may not be so in the eyes of children.
I’ll never forget bringing my 1 year old daughter with me to get my haircut. She cried when the hairdresser snipped the first piece of my hair off because (I believe anyway), she either thought it was painful or she felt grief for the first time. She loved it when I waved my hair over her face and she may have thought I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. Hard to say. I comforted her during that visit and I still had enough hair to brush her face with, so future visits weren’t traumatic, but that moment sure made me wonder what goes on in their minds.
- Heavy topics are a part of life. He introduced difficult subjects such as divorce and death, even assassination, and taught us how to deal with them better. Also that it’s ok when you just don’t understand something. I find it soothing to know that I don’t have to waste my time and energy anymore trying to understand certain topics that just don’t make any sense to my empathic mind. What’s more important is to understand that others don’t feel the same way and I have to accept that.
Important Message for Our Divided World
With his calm demeanor and talent of inspiring others on May 1, 1969, Fred Rogers was able to convince the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications to continue funding PBS (Public Broadcasting System) to provide children a platform for quality education such as his show. By the way, Sesame Street was and still is shown on PBS.
He advocated for the need for social and emotional education that only public television provided, saying that the “inner drama of childhood” is far more fascinating and important to unravel than the violence shown on public channels.
I don’t know about you, but I also was raised with an unintelligent hunter who didn’t know whether it was duck or rabbit season. And with a chaotic coyote blowing himself up every time he tried to kill a speedy bird. Of course I loved these shows too, but I never had the safe or understood feeling while watching them as I did watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
The committee ended up funding PBS $22 million. I’ve just teared up again after watching his plea in front of the court. Let me know if you did too!
Fred Rogers is the kind of man who could bring peace to a riot just by talking to people and understanding human emotions. He is truly missed but his legacy lives on. Rest in Peace.
Learning from his example would help us all to unite our undivided world.
Do you also love animals like Mister Rogers?
Did you grow up with Mister Rogers too? Please comment below and let’s talk!
Wishing you enjoyable memories today.
Thank you for being my neighbor,