When I was going through turmoil and my mom was at work, there was one place I could always go to find a sense of comfort, solace and calm: Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood (affiliate link). Mr. Rogers came on TV every day. He walked through the door, hung his jacket up, and changed his shoes all while inviting me to be his neighbor. His shows were informative, inclusive for their time, and full of love. Most of all, I knew at least one person liked me for who I am – not who I would be, not my consumer or employment status, not my current mood. Mr. Rogers just cared for me no matter what.
I cried throughout “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (affiliate link) as I watched a man, I revere, be the special person he was, and I wondered who is this generation’s Mr. Rogers. Fred Rogers gave us more than a TV show and platitudes. As children, he gave us respect. He listened to us. When he asked a question, he waited for our response, and he never devalued us. He saw the humanity in the child and the individual. He also saw that children needed quiet time.
As important, children need to be talked to about current events. He did a show on assassination after Bobby Kennedy was killed. He did a show about the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion. He even returned briefly to television to talk about September 11. My generation was lucky; we had Mr. Rogers.
The generations that have come after me have been less lucky, and the latest generation may be in trouble. Who is the voice that will talk to them and help them understand the protests, the police presence, and the racial divide in America? Who will help them feel safer in their communities? There may be no one person that can do what Mr. Rogers did for us, but maybe we can embody his ideals a little more and a little better. It starts by explaining to our children what’s going on in America and why. By doing so, we may begin to understand it ourselves and feel a motivating compassion to do something about it.