by Dale Reeves
“He was a staple in our home.”
“I will never forget meeting him as a child. He was so kind and genuine.”
“I grew up in a very abusive home, and had no father in my life. This man came into my home every day and showed an angry, scared kid that it would be OK, and that there were good people in the world.”
“A rare soul who actually helped make the world a better place.”
“This man was a true disciple of Christ without sounding preachy. Our lives get so full and overwhelming that we sometimes don’t handle situations so gently and calmly as this man did on his show.”
“He was the grandfather figure I never had.”
“He was a bright spot in my abusive childhood.
“He reminded us to treat everyone with kindness and compassion. One never knows the struggles of another person.”
Fred McFeely Rogers was a musician, puppeteer, writer, producer, and Presbyterian minister. He was ordained in 1963 with the unusual charge to continue his ministry with children and their families through the media. While he never served in the traditional role of pastor of a brick-and-mortar church, his ministry to children reached millions through his long-running TV show on PBS, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. My two daughters watched it with great interest in their preschool years in the ’80s and early ’90s.
We Need This
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is out in movie theaters, just in time to spread good feelings and holiday cheer. Two-time Academy Award winner Tom Hanks plays the man best known for wearing his cardigan sweaters, trademark sneakers, and for telling children how special they were. He did it through music, through the use of puppets, and through lots of people visiting him in his neighborhood—a magical land of make believe.
About the movie, Travis DeShong wrote in The Washington Post, “It’s a feel-good biopic about a feel-good character. There is no scheming antihero, no overwhelming societal obstacle.”
One of the lines Tom Hanks speaks in the movie as Rogers is, “We are trying to give the world positive ways of dealing with feelings.” On his show, Fred Rogers wasn’t afraid to introduce children to a wide range of concepts and help them navigate through some tough issues like cooperation, racial tolerance, divorce in the home, death, even 9/11. He received a Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award in 1997, and he spent his acceptance speech challenging everyone to reflect on all those who had poured into their lives, wishing the best for them. Even though he died in 2003, this was part of the legacy of America’s favorite neighbor.
Try a Little Kindness
Fred Rogers said this, “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.” He set out to show people that demonstrating kindness is something that is possible for everyone. Did you celebrate World Kindness Day on November 13? In case you haven’t heard about it, on this day people attempt to make the world a better place by celebrating and promoting good deeds and pledging acts of kindness—either as individuals or as organizations. This international holiday was formed in 1998 and today it is observed in many countries. Before the World Kindness Movement began, Mr. Rogers got his passion for showing kindness to others from the Bible. These are just a few of the challenges we hear in God’s Word . . .
Colossians 3:12, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (NLT).
Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (NIV).
Galatians 5:22, 23, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (NLT).
To the Next Generation
Fred Rogers cared very much about boosting the self-image of everyone he met—especially children. He reminded them of how special and unique they were and told them, “There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” And the message of his loving and kind words are now being carried to the next generation of preschoolers through the cartoon descendant of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood . . . Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. I have watched several episodes of this animated program with my grandson Luke. Through imagination, creativity, and music, Daniel and his friends learn key social skills necessary for being successful in life. Not too long ago a study was conducted in which children who watched this animated show on PBS were observed. Not surprisingly, these children were found to have higher levels of empathy, were better at recognizing emotions, and were more confident in social situations than children who did not watch this series.
As parents and grandparents, it is our responsibility to help the next generation understand what it means to love and care for others. We must model for them what it means to show kindness to people—in the big things and the small things. We must demonstrate what forgiveness looks like. There are lots of negative examples they see in the media every single day. Their constant exposure to all things media and social media should be a constant concern of ours. I am grateful for the legacy left by Mr. Fred Rogers and his neighborhood. He demonstrated what Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote about in 1965 . . .
“What the world needs now is love, sweet love;
It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of.
What the world needs now is love, sweet love,
No not just for some but for everyone.”
Do yourself a favor. Go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood this holiday season.