Did you watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when you were a kid? I watched it a bit, but now I wished I had watched it more.
I say that, now that I know more about Fred Rogers. We watched the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? at a recent meetup with The Thinkery in Vancouver. We all were impressed by the loving tenderness and dogged determination of this man who ministered to millions of children throughout his life.
The film included several interviews with Mr. Rogers. In one interview very early in his career, he pointed out that he didn’t wear a silly hat as many child entertainers did. As I watched footage from his program in which he used hand puppets, I noticed that he didn’t even try not to move his lips when he spoke for the puppets (I don’t remember noticing that as a child). It struck me that, when he pointed to the tapes containing many years’ worth of episodes, he didn’t refer to them as shows; he called them visits. Often he dealt head-on with harsh realities of the day, such as the episode in which the cast discussed assassination in the wake of the killing of Bobby Kennedy.
What does this all add up to? Mr. Rogers didn’t aim to entertain children; he aimed to relate to them. He didn’t just love children; he also respected them. He didn’t talk down to them. He looked them in the eye. And they looked in his.
I loved the clip in which Mr. Rogers used a hand puppet to talk with a little boy about something fairly difficult and personal. Even though Mr. Rogers used his puppet voice and made the toy’s mouth move along with the words, the boy looked straight into Mr. Rogers’s eyes throughout the conversation. The puppet made it easier for the boy to open up, but it was Mr. Rogers with whom the boy was connecting. The boy knew it was this man who cared.
Millions of other children knew the same. That goes for Mr. Rogers’s family, his friends, and his coworkers, as well. Mr. Rogers truly loved everyone he considered to be his neighbor.
The Thinkery cultivates not just thinking but thoughtfulness — consideration for others. I encourage you to see the film. Think about what you see. Think about what you can learn from this amazing man. Above all — just like Mr. Rogers — think about others.
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.
— Fred Rogers —