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  • michelle m. davis

What Would Mr. Rogers Say?

Have you seen Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood? If not, I highly recommend you do. I watched the movie this past month. Although somewhat hesitant to commit, after several minutes I was hooked.

I don’t want to spoil the story by sharing what happens. Yet, I will say I never expected to feel so much about the man who created and starred in a children’s television show that first aired in 1968. Nevertheless, it’s been quite some time since I’ve cried happy tears while viewing a movie. Let’s just say my faith in humanity may be a bit stronger.

Fred Rogers was the real deal. Not only was he kind, compassionate, and selfless, but also Mr. Rogers remained a true gentleman who chose the high road, even when it was most difficult.

Was Mr. Rogers perfect? Apparently not, as the movie shares he dealt with anger and frustration. But he owned his emotions and sought to use these experiences to guide children in how to deal with their feelings. The persona that millions of kids watched was truly himself—on and off the television set.

We all know the song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Maybe you, like I, wrote it off as merely a tune attached to a children’s show. But think about it … might Mr. Rogers have known the answers all along? For if we acted as neighbors and friends—instead of judging and labeling people who are different—I doubt our world would be in the mess it’s in.

After the movie ended, I had an “aha” moment. What if I approached life and its challenging situations as Mr. Rogers did? Of course, it would be impossible for me to do this all of the time. However, if I could shift and follow his lead some of the time, I’d be a much nicer person.

For instance, if I encountered someone who was not acting in a kind or considerate manner, could I reframe the situation and instead of criticizing, ask the person how they were? Might showing authentic interest and concern help that person feel better? Mr. Rogers refrained from judging others or claiming they were having a bad day. Instead, he offered space, listened, and held back from giving advice. If he did comment, it was only to provide food for thought.

Below are some of my favorite Mr. Rogers quotes. I doubt these words of wisdom were meant only for the children viewing his show. Parents in nearby rooms most likely benefited from his brilliant words as well …

“When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.”

“Often, problems are knots with many strands, and looking at those strands can make a problem seem different.”

“When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.”

“There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help.”

“Fame is a four-letter word; and like ‘tape’ or ‘zoom’ or ‘face’ or ‘pain’ or ‘life’ or ‘love,’ what ultimately matters is what we do with it.”

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”

“The media shows the tiniest percentage of what people do. There are millions and millions of people doing wonderful things all over the world, and they’re generally not the ones being touted in the news.”

“It’s not the honors and the prizes and the fancy outsides of life which ultimately nourish our souls. It’s the knowing that we can be trusted, that we never have to fear the truth, that the bedrock of our very being is good stuff.”

“You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”

There are many other admirable quotes; however, I believe you get the picture. Mr. Rogers makes it sound easy, simple. And perhaps life is. Maybe we’re the ones who muck it all up.

This week, and perhaps in the weeks to follow, I am going to do my best to approach life like Fred Rogers did. I want to judge less and listen more. I hope to hold space without trying to fix. I’m going to try to be there, fully present, for those who need me.

“What would Mister Rogers say?”

That is my question. What’s yours?


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