How do you feel when you see Mr. Rogers’ face as he sings to or looks at a child?
Does your heart open up like a big, all-in hug?
It takes me back to sitting on our living room floor in Lincoln, Maine and watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood after school.
Four o’clock, I think it was.
And though there are oodles of counter-joy messages in TV land these days, we can always go back to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
That’s where we can hear Tony Bennett sing to Lady Elaine.
Or watch Margaret Hamilton discuss pretend witches as she ties on her Wizard of Oz skirt.
Or be reminded of who knit all those zippered sweaters.
We could let ourselves empathize with the uncertainty of vulnerability.
And then feel certain that having a friend matters fiercely, as it did the day Lady Aberlin and Daniel sang, “Sometimes I Wonder if I’m a Mistake.”
We could picture ourselves living as compassionately as Mr. Rogers did, like the time he and Jeff Erlanger sang, “It’s You I Like”.
Mr Rogers, It’s You I Like
The 2018 PBS documentary, Mr. Rogers, It’s You I Like, is narrated by Michael Keaton, one of The Flying Zookeeni Brothers on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. (If you click the link, he’s the one in the white hat.)
Sarah Silverman says, “You know what I loved about him? He never lied to kids. He leaned right into it and he always told the truth.”
And John Lithgow falls still as Mr. Rogers sings, “Sometimes people get sad, and they really do feel bad. But the very same people who are sad sometimes, are the very same people who are glad sometimes . . .”
Whoppi Goldberg calls Fred Rogers a subtle civil rights advocate.
You could see it the first time he invited Officer Clemmons to share his wading pool.
It was during a time vicious messages promoting segregated swimming were pervasive in the U.S.
And again years later they cooled their heels while singing, “There are Many Ways to Say I Love You,”
Mr. Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, never strayed from his message of love.
“Love is at the root of everything. All learning, all relationships. Love — or the lack of it.”
And how evident that was when he and the signing, silver-back gorilla, Koko, exchanged words of love.
When I was the parent of young children, I wanted them to to know that the simplicity of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood could go with them anywhere, and that they didn’t have to do or be a certain way for me and others to love them.
“The greatest thing we can do,” he said, “is to help somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.”
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Treating yourself to the newest documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, qualifies, I’d say, as profound, self care.
And ditto for taking time afterwards to sit quietly with the feelings it evokes.
Surprisingly, the moment that may have spoken loudest to me during this film was when Mr. Rogers chose not to speak during a speech.
In a commencement address at Dartmouth he invited reflection then paused:
I’d like to give you all an invisible gift. A gift of a silent minute to think about those who have helped you become who you are today.
. . . wherever they are, if they’ve loved you, and encouraged you, and wanted what was best in life for you, they’re right inside your self.
So I’m making the suggestion that as you read this, you stop for a moment to also remember.
I’ll do it, too.
and . . .
. . .
. . .
And when your minute is up, remember:
“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive, it’s such a hap-py feeling you’re growing inside, and when you wake up ready to say, I think I’ll make a snappy today. It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling, . . .”
• Be kind to someone today just because.
• And notice all there is to be grateful for from sunrise to sunset. Once you start looking with those eyes, what comes into focus is pretty spectacular.
• And take action when you see something that is just plain wrong.
• Read about Climb Wyoming, the organization demonstrating to adult, single moms that “they are loved and capable of loving.”
• See how one small group banded together, Gillette Against Hate.
• • •
Ellen Synakowski lives in Laramie, Wyoming.
Her website is EllenSynakowski.com
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”1 — C. West