By Katie Mikeska
On this, the 50th anniversary of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, I am reminded of a much younger, pigtailed version of myself, that would run into the kitchen for Honeycomb cereal and then plop myself in front of the TV for what was my favorite hour of television. Sesame Street and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Like me, I’m sure most of you reading had a similar childhood experience. Taking a trip into the Neighborhood of Make Believe was a daily delight, and the way Fred Rogers communicated as well as the content of his show made us all a little smarter, a little more patient, and a little more kind. What I didn’t realize when I was five, was that Fred Rogers and his views on society were shaping me into the open minded and empathetic adult woman I am today.
“Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered . . . just one kind word to another person.”
Before researching for this article I had no idea what a progressive, independent thinker Fred Rogers had been, and how he was able to use his children’s program to influence generations of growing minds. Mr. Rogers had no issue with taking con-troversial topics and turning them into a half hour life lesson for the children that watched. He was an unapologetic pacifist. He was a pioneer for women’s equality. He was an advocate for racial diversity. He stood up for the poor. If alive today what would he think about the state of our society? For 31 years he tried teach us what it was to be a good neighbor, and as I watch the news, as I overhear conversations, as I listen to my son and daughter talk to me about school I realize, we weren’t listening. So, instead of writ-ing you a biography about Fred Roger’s life to celebrate his 50th anniversary, I’ve decided to let him speak for himself. I’ll let Fred remind us what it means to be a good neighbor today, so that tomorrow we can start changing this world for those he loved the most, our children.
“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.”
“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 Civic Duty
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”
“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors – in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”
“One of the greatest dignities of humankind is that each successive generation is invested in the welfare of each new generation.”
“What matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. What really matters is helping others win too. Even if it means slowing down and changing our course now and then.”
“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”
On How to Treat One Another
"As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has – or ever will have--something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.”
“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.”
“At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings; that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”
These quotes are a summation of what Fred Rogers tried to teach us. Once read, how can we deny the consistent simple message that he was trying to convey? We all have something to give. We all have a part to play. If we focus on our own communities, making sure that our neighbors are taken care of, being kind to the people we meet as we’re out in the world, teaching our children that service to others will always be more rewarding than service to self, things can change. Fred Roger’s life was one of service, compassion, and love. That is his legacy. What will ours be?
To love someone is to take them exactly for who they are, right here and now, and to go on loving them through all the times. May you have a lifetime of loving and a lifetime of growing. –Fred Rogers