HBO recently aired its documentary about Mr Rogers. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and I have to tell you, it’s good…really good. I was born in the 70s so I was raised on Mr. Rogers, Electric Company, and classic Sesame Street. PBS raised me and many others my age. Having grown up in Pennsylvania, Mr. Rogers even means a bit more to me for regional reasons as well.
When I was a punk teen growing up, we poked fun at Mr. Rogers perfect smile and love for all things children. It was easy to make crude jokes and laugh at his hokey down-home feel good attitude. His sweaters, his loafers, the whole changing into sneakers thing…we poked fun at it all.
Knock knock Mr. Rogers it’s Mr. McFeely
I’ve brought you a letter speedy delivery
Well Mr. McFeely if there’s postage due
You can go fuck yourself like Captain Kangaroo
The documentary really sheds some light on things that I certainly wasn’t thinking about in my teens years or later in life when I sang those lyrics and chuckled.
The thing is, I don’t know if there ever has been or ever will be someone who will believe in or care for children quite like Mr. Rogers. If you ignore the puerile instinct to make jokes about it and truly watch and listen, you’ll see a man who truly wanted to change the world. And while he got a little cranky in his later years about TV and entertainment in ways I don’t agree with, I do think he was right about a lot. The biggest takeaway from the documentary?
Listen. Care. Try and understand.
Kids’ minds are not like ours. You need to get down on their level (Mr. Rogers always sat on low chairs or the floor when talking with children). You need to listen. Thier thoughts run deeper than you think. Showing compassion and letting them tell you what they’re thinking and what they need…that’s the sign of a true, caring, adult.
We could all be a bit more like Mr. Rogers.
At the risk of sounding like the old man…I really think kids today are missing this kind of influence on their lives.
And to those that claimed that Mr. Rogers is responsible for the millennial generation’s “everyone is special” snowflake attitude? I say bullshit. That was never his point…yes, he pointed out that we were all special, but he never meant that we all win and get trophies just for breathing. His point was that we didn’t need someone else to tell us we were worthy of love. We didn’t need to depend on everyone else for validation. We needed to believe in ourselves and let ourselves shine…so that we could show our value to others, not keep it bottled up inside thanks to self-fear and doubt.
Thanks Mr. Rogers, you taught me well and I’m glad I got to grow up with you…I’m lucky to have been able to enjoy it.
image courtesy of David Pinkerton