We Could All Be A Little More Like Mr. Rogers
Okay, I’m not gonna hop up on a soap-box and preach. Or blast out some empty platitudes.
I am merely suggesting that we could all pause in our stressful lives and remember what Mr. Rogers taught us. Well… what he taught a LOT of us. Some of y’all were a little late to the Make-Believe Trolley because the show didn’t start until 1968. But by the time most of my generation (Generation X) were 2 to 5 years old, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood had pretty much become required viewing.
And look. I know for a fact that there are some (ahem) people who think that Mr. Rogers warped a generation of kids into thinking that they were “special” and deserved more than our share in life. To those, I will ask “What the heck is WRONG with you?”
Fred Rogers was an ordained minister who decided that television should have some good, wholesome, educational content on it. Something good for kids. That’s all. No harm intended. Far from it. Mr. Rogers was about as real as it gets.
During each half-hour segment, Rogers spoke directly to the viewer about various issues, taking kids on tours of factories, demonstrating experiments, crafts, and music, and interacting with his friends. Mr. Rogers also made a point to simply behave naturally on camera rather than acting out a character. He once said, “One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self. I also believe that kids can spot a phony a mile away.” He was so right!
Lesson #1: Be honest with people and be your true self.
At the beginning of each episode, a camera pans across “The Neighborhood” and we’re then inside Mr. Rogers’ “Home” where he sings “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”:
“So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?”
As long as we’re all here, living through this life…shouldn’t we be the best people we can be? Shouldn’t we make the most of every day that God gives us? Shouldn’t we treat each other as if we all live right next to one another?
Lesson #2: Instead of just “getting through the day” maybe we should try to do something unique and special every day! And maybe we should remember the Golden Rule and treat others as we hope that they’ll treat us. Ya think?
Mr. Rogers also had a great cast of drop-by regulars and Neighborhood Characters. Mr. McFeely the Delivery Man; Handyman Negri; Officer Clemmons (the first African American character ever on a kids’ television show); Emily the Poetry Lady; and (my favorite) Lady Aberlin. There were a lot more, but everyone brought something important to the show… and everyone was different.
Lesson #3: It takes all types of people to make a society. God made us all the way we are. And we all need to get along and tolerate each others’ differences. And…the more we know about each other, the easier it is to relate to one another! Every day we’re alive brings a new opportunity to understand someone who’s different than you.
Most of us outgrew Mr. Rogers Neighborhood pretty quickly. By the time we turned 6, it was on to ‘Sesame Street,’ ‘Electric Company,’ then to the slightly-hipper ‘Zoom’…and then the mind-numbing 1970s/80s After School Bonanza of ‘Gilligan’s Island,’ ‘The Brady Bunch,’ ‘Batman’ & ‘Superman,’ etc. Most of those shows were basically the television equivalent of… a twinkie. Nothing wrong here, but nothing really good for you, either.
Mr Rogers was a great way to start life. I remember once he showed us a factory where gum gets made. I was maybe 5 years old, and it seemed fascinating to me! “That stuff CAME from SOMEWHERE! People actually MADE IT!” And I think that curiosity and fascination that comes to us in childhood never leaves some of us.
Lesson #4: Hang on to some of your child-like qualities. They can serve you well in this world! And let’s face it: Being an ADULT isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Children are basically fearless, and they’re IMPOSSIBLE to fool. Couldn’t we all use a little more of those qualities?
And finally, at the end of every episode, Mr. Rogers sang “It’s Such A Good Feeling” (except early on, when the song “Tomorrow” was used from ’68 to ’72). Either way, the song(s) conveyed the promise of new opportunities in the coming day. Mr. Rogers would always say something like, “You always make each day a special day. You know how? By just your being you! There’s only one person in the whole world like you, and that’s you! And people can like you just the way you are.” That’s probably the best thing you can tell a young person. And equally important to remember when you’re, oh, let’s say 50-ish!
Lesson #5: No matter what happens in our lives, it’s important to remember that each of us has value. And it’s exactly the things that make us different that are the most valuable traits we possess! And I, for one, like you just the way YOU are.
Sure, I’ve recently seen the new Mister Rogers Neighborhood documentary, called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. And I’m all full of that awesome spirit. It’s a lot like what happens after you’ve been to a good ol’ Southern Tent-Revival. I left the theater feeling elevated. However, someone else in my family felt soul-crushed. That person was keenly aware that our society has LOST the good qualities that Mr. Rogers strove to instill in us all. I suppose it’s a “Glass Half Empty/Glass Half Full” way of thinking about it.
I think we can all be better people. Please prove me right!