Photo from: @mrrogersmovie
Any US adult over the age of 21 will likely remember Mr. Rogers, the gentle man who greeted us with a smile on the show “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood.” It’s been 15 years since the last episode of Rogers’ show aired, but a new documentary is bringing this man back into the limelight.
Released in theaters nationwide this month, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is a behind-the-scenes look at the show and Rogers’ long career. While you might expect a straight-forward account of his award-winning program, what you’re in for is a heart-wrenching message about the power of kindness and empathy. Examining Rogers’ tireless mission to connect with children through compassion, the film is a much-needed dose of love. We guarantee you’ll shed a tear or two, and that you’ll feel better for it.
While we don’t want to give away the whole documentary, here are three powerful takeaways that show what a truly remarkable man Rogers was.
Fred Rogers didn’t skirt around pressing issues. It was just the opposite: he used the medium of television to address heavy topics like death, divorce, and anger. When Robert F. Kennedy was killed in 1968, he used puppets to bring up the issue of assassination and make it accessible for children. He felt it was important to tell children the truth and that being honest was how we could help them manage their emotions. Through his gentle directness, he showed the importance of using grace and courage to face difficulties head on.
Never Give Up On Your Vision
Rogers hosted his show with Zen-like ease, but a bit of evidence reveals that he continuously struggled to write new scripts and push forward with ideas. But Rogers’ commitment to helping children proved to be stronger than his fear. His dedication to his mission kept him going for decades. It’s a reminder that our passions matter and can truly make a difference, even when the obstacles feel overbearing.
Use Pain to Connect
While the documentary only picks at Rogers’ childhood, there’s a strong sense that it wasn’t easy. He suffered from several illnesses as well as bullying and emotional repression. But it was these same experiences that influenced his revolutionary approach to children. Interviewees explain that he never forgot what it was like to be young and scared, and speculate how this fueled his vision of kindness. Rogers showed that personal struggle can soften us to the pain of others, that hardship can be a foundation for immense compassion.