Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I know what you’re thinking – how can a movie about Fred Rogers be badass? Believe it or not, it can. Mr. Rogers may not be the first person you think about when you are considering a badass, but he is hard core in his love of children and his belief that television should uplift and motivate people. He stayed true to his beliefs and he learned all he could.

He may have saved my childhood from one of abuse and trauma. His messages of love and acceptance were something I used to cling to. Knowing that someone loved me as I was was vital to my nurturance. I didn’t get that message anywhere else, not at home or at school or even church. Mr. Rogers was someone I idolized and the more I learned about the man in this documentary, the more I idolize him today.

Fred Rogers, the fat kid

Did you know that Mr. Rogers was a chubby child? He felt isolated and alone a lot. He was sickly. In fact, he said he had every childhood illness known to man. During those times in quarantine, he turned to his imagination to save him from loneliness. He also found a coping mechanism in music, which would be a lifelong love. He felt that he could express himself on the piano in a safer way than by using words. I understand that feeling.

Don’t make me into an adult yet

Mr. Rogers talked about how during his childhood everyone wanted him to be something he was not, a grown up. As a kid, I felt this too. It seems that parents of generations past didn’t appreciate children for the unique individuals they were. They were ‘seen and not heard’, mere nuisances to put up with until they left the roost.

As a kind and gentle human being, Fred Rogers studied children. He related very deeply to them. He cared deeply for them. He knew that children had value and were often pondering profound questions in their own way. He used puppets to connect with children and his winning personality to keep children engaged.

The Neighborhood

Did you know that Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood tackled tough topics like RFK’s assassination, the Vietnam War and much more? Yes, Fred Rogers didn’t coddle children as some critics would have you believe. He treated children like human beings. Yes, children can be fragile and we have to protect them. In fact, we should protect them. However, they deserve the truth.  He gave it to them in a way they could process and handle. Thank you, sir.

The Documentary

During this film, I saw him struggle to do PSAs for 9/11. I never knew he did them. I saw the pain in his eyes and his heart. He was an old man by this time and it looked like the world was about to do him in. In fact, in 2003, he died. I’m actually glad he’s not alive to see what our country has deteriorated into today. It would break his heart. The film shows a man with a lust for life and a love of children and people that is massive. His heart was so big and his compassion so great. I want to be a little bit more like him today. We all should be.

Now what?

Take the lessons that Mr. Rogers taught you as a child if you watched him. If not, check out YouTube or Netflix or wherever you have to to find them. These shows are worth a look. We can all try to be like Fred Rogers. He did NOT create a generation of entitled human beings. It is true that everybody is special. We need to hear those messages more often, not less. He created a generation of caring, kind people who want to see the world better for themselves and their children. I am one of those people  and I am proud to be it.

Now, enjoy this vignette from yesteryear. If you haven’t seen this documentary, please do. It’s definitely worth your time.



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