Sunday, March 10, 2019

How Fred Rogers Changed My Life

"Won't You Be My Neighbor."  I finally got curious enough to watch this special documentary on HBO about the life of Fred Rogers and his impact on not only television, but on all of our lives.  I fondly remember watching his show as child in late 60's and 70's.  Sure, it wasn't as cool as the cartoons or reruns of Gilligan's Island, but there was something special about Mr. Rogers Neighborhood (which ran for more than 30 years (800+ episodes).  I remember the Neighborhood Trolley, King Friday, feeding the fish, "picture-picture," and who could forget the special deliveries that came to Mr. Rogers' door everyday.

As the documentary develops, you really get to see who Fred Rogers really was behind the camera (spoiler:  he's the same as he is in front of the camera).  Did you know that he swam a mile in the pool everyday and weighed exactly 143 pounds for 30 years?  He was so concerned with the feelings of children and how our environment impacts them, he went to congress when funds were being threatened and got $20M for PBS.  Needless to say, I highly recommend that everyone watch this one.

At the risk of exposing too much of my feelings, I'm going to "put myself out there" with three key things that really "challenged" me (in a positive way) by watching the film:

  1. It's how you feel about yourself that really matters!  OK, a few therapists over the years have said the same thing to me, but Mr. Rogers really substantiates this concept in a different way.  Children grow up in an unforgiving world.  It makes them question their own self-worth.  Even little things, like being told the truth about difficult subjects reinforces a child's emotional well-being (Mr. Rogers spoke about divorce, racism, death, the Challenger disaster, 9/11 and more).  True to his song:  You're perfect just the way you are;  I like you for who you are.  (FYI - Rogers wrote every song, lyric on the show and did most of the pupetts himself). 
  2. Forgiveness, Empathy, Love, and Honesty must be taught and nutured.  It's just the truth!  Our world is in a tail-spin over religious intolerance, nation vs. nation, politics and corruption.  Wouldn't a little empathy go a long way?  Can't we just tell each other the truth instead of bringing out the Special Investigation Committee?  Can't we empathize with the millions of refugees who are starving and without shelter?  Today, I'm going to think about how I can forgive other people (and forgive myself).
  3. Learning is something we do for a lifetime.  Funny story from the film:  Rogers does his show for 20 years and decides he's covered every topic he could (plans on showing reruns).  Two years later, he's back on set because there's more to teach.  Does it for another 10 years.  AMAZING.  I see this every day in myself and others.  We get good at things (being a parent, our job, a sport, a game, etc.) and we stop learning.  Mr. Rogers taught me that we must always care about each other and our world.  We need to take care of our families, our societies and our planet.  We only do this with knowledge.  If we don't understand something, it's hard to change and prioritize our lives (take climate change as a great example).
I'll say it.  Mr. Rogers is an inspiration for me.  I think he was ahead of his time and knew something that we don't.  In his soft spoken voice, I think he would tell us to spend our time, effort and lives doing something that promotes kindness and love towards one another.  Pretty cool.