5 things ‘Mister Rogers’ can still teach us
PITTSBURGH — To a generation of children, Fred Rogers was a lot more than a soothing voice and a cardigan.
On “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which had its first national broadcast on February 19, 1968, he sprinkled educational segments with soft-spoken wisdom.
The show went off the air in 2001, and Rogers died in 2003. But he’s making a posthumous comeback. The US Postal Service will commemorate him on a stamp next month, a documentary film about his beloved PBS show will be released in June and Tom Hanks will play him in a biopic.
Fifty years later, Rogers’ legacy still resonates.
Here’s a look at some of his more memorable lessons and quotes, from his show and writings.
1. Slow down and be patient.
In one episode, Rogers wanted viewers to hear what it sounded like when the fish in his on-set aquarium ate their food. He called in a marine biologist to install a microphone in the tank, but the biologist grew impatient when the fish weren’t eating. They could have re-recorded the scene, but Rogers kept it in as a lesson in patience and the appreciation of silence.
“Mutually caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other’s achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.”
2. Love people for who they are.
On another episode Rogers showed viewers the sweaters his mother knitted for him — the same sweaters he wore on every single show.
“I guess that’s the best thing about things, they remind you of people.”
And people reminded him of how important it is to truly care for others.
“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.”
3. Everyone is a neighbor.
Rogers once ran into a young man, Anthony Breznican, in an elevator in Pittsburgh, where the show was filmed. Breznican, a fan of the show as a child, recognized Rogers and thanked him for all he did to help children. “Did you grow up as one of my neighbors?” Rogers asked, then opened his arms and gave Breznican a hug.
Breznican told Rogers he’d been going through a tough time since the recent death of his grandfather. Rogers sat him down and listened for a while. Finally, Breznican apologized for keeping the TV host from his appointments. Rogers told him exactly what he needed to hear:
“Sometimes you’re right where you need to be.”
4. There is always a reason to help.
Although Rogers’ show was aimed at young children, he sometimes addressed such serious topics as war and divorce. He told kids that when bad things happen and they get scared, hope is never far away.
“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.'”
5. Treat others with kindness.
Rogers’ off-camera self wasn’t much different than his on-air persona. He encouraged his viewers to be themselves, too, and to celebrate their uniqueness.
“One of the greatest gifts you can give anybody is the gift of your honest self.”
But he also wanted to teach something he believed to be most important: Showing kindness to others.
“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”