Gentle Wisdom: Lessons From Fred Rogers

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So many of us remember Fred Rogers as the soft-spoken man in a cardigan, the host of the award-winning children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. But Mr. Rogers was more than a face on screen.

For more than three decades, Rogers used the medium of television to teach children about kindness, empathy, patience, and self-love. He believed in the importance of helping children manage their feelings and fears. Delivering his lines with a gentle smile, he concluded every episode with the same refrain:

You’ve made this day a special day just by being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you. And I like you just the way you are.

It’s been more than 15 years since the final episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and many of us have long outgrown children’s programming. But that doesn’t mean we’ve outgrown Mr. Rogers’ messages. Indeed, the truth, heart, and simplicity behind his lessons feel as powerful and relevant as ever.

To celebrate this man’s legacy, here are 10 reflections, observations, and pieces of wisdom from Fred Rogers (both behind the camera and in front of it!).

On Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”

On Love

“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.”

On Working With What Life Gives You

“I believe it’s a fact of life that what we have is less important than what we make out of what we have.”

On Strength

“Most of us, I believe, admire strength. It’s something we tend to respect in others, desire for ourselves, and wish for our children. Sometimes, though, I wonder if we confuse strength and other words–like aggression and even violence. Real strength is neither male nor female; but is, quite simply, one of the finest characteristics that any human being can possess.”

On Self-Worth

“The world needs a sense of worth, and it will achieve it only by its people feeling that they are worthwhile.”

On Great Moments

“A high school student wrote to ask, ‘What was the greatest event in American history?’ I can’t say. However, I suspect that like so many ‘great’ events, it was something very simple and very quiet with little or no fanfare (such as someone forgiving someone else for a deep hurt that eventually changed the course of history). The really important ‘great’ things are never center stage of life’s dramas; they’re always ‘in the wings.’ That’s why it’s so essential for us to be mindful of the humble and the deep rather than the flashy and the superficial.”

On Pain

“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.”

On Winning

“In a way, you’ve already won in this world. Because you’re the only one who can be you.”

On Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers–so many caring people in this world.”

On Specialness

“I hope that you’re learning how important you are, how important each person you see can be. Discovering each one’s specialty is the most important learning.”




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