Growing up, Fred Rogers was my friend. I was born in 1983 and recall watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood early in life. His show was appointment television in our house. I would turn the dial (yes, we had a TV that old, younger people reading) to Channel 11 WTTW, the PBS affiliate in Chicago. I remember thinking, “Mister Rogers is talking to me,” and how much of an impact every episode of his show had.
Later in life, I would learn just how much thought Fred put into his show. Fred stated, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there was some way of using this fabulous instrument to be of nurture to those who would watch and listen.” Boy was he right. I’m living proof of how watching a show like his can have a positive impact on one’s life.
This Thursday evening, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers, arrives in movie theaters across the country. I’m prepared to enjoy the movie and yes, probably even shed a tear. What a perfect film to be released around the holiday season, a time we’re filled with joy, love, and generosity. And, who better to portray Fred Rogers than Tom Hanks? He appears to have transformed into Fred for this role.
What I’m thankful for with our modern technology is that in an instant, I can stream Mister Rogers for my own children. Fred’s legacy will continue to influence and impact generations to come.
What makes me laugh are the critics of Mister Rogers, people that would say, “Children don’t need to think they’re something special,” or that, “Fred Rogers created generations of children that felt entitled.” The word entitled is defined as, “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” Did watching Mister Rogers make me feel entitled? No. Did his show empower me to be a better person and to treat others with respect? Yes, it did and so much more.
I’m a firm believer in putting good out into the world and good will find its way back to you. I make a choice every day I wake up to be optimistic about the day and to do my best to be kind to everyone I encounter. I hope that Fred Rogers would be proud of me. I know we live in complicated times and I’m not naive of the challenges we face. I just choose to make the most of each day and hope that I can be a good person and teach my children to do the same.
Thank you, Fred Rogers, for changing my life. “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive. It’s such a happy feeling you’re growing inside, and when you wake up ready to say, ‘I think I’ll make a snappy new day.’”