Fred Rogers went on to become Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, a popular children's show that ran from 1968 until it's final production in 2001. reruns can still be found on many stations. Mr. Rogers is most known for his quiet demeanor and button-front sweater. Although he's been dead for 15 years now, many human adults can't stop turning back to Mr. Rogers and his wonderful lessons. He was kind of like the Dharma Frog of humans. With that in mind, I thought it might be kind of fun to take a look at a few of the life lessons that Mr. Rogers taught that are still applicable today, whether you're human or some other species.
1. It's okay to feel whatever it is that we feel. One thing that Mr. Rogers learned early in his career and something that we often repeated on his TV show was, "Anything human is mentionable, and anything mentionable is manageable.” In others words whatever we feel, it's okay to feel...even if it feels chaotic or seems too complex to manage. naming those feelings, speaking them out loud, and exploring them with those people we love and trust are all good ways to grow inside.
2. But those feelings aren't an excuse for bad behavior. I have a friend who does many unpleasant, irritating and often hurtful things. When asked why he continues his bad behavior even when he knows it hurts others, his excuse is always, "I learned it from my father. it's just who I am." As if that is somehow supposed to make it all okay. "What Do You Do with the Mad You feel?" was a song that Mr. Rogers sang to help kids understand their anger. Mr. Rogers pointed out that while it's okay to have feelings, it's not always appropriate to act on them. He suggested ways for releasing those pent-up feeling that worked better than taking it out on friends and family, These included punching a punching bag, pound some clay or dough, engaging in physical activities like playing tag or touch football. He told his young listeners that feeling in control feels good. And it does, no matter your age.
3. Other people are different than us - but just as complex. In today's society, we are becoming increasingly aware of the differences between "us" and "them." The population seems fixated on our differences, rather than our sameness. Social media doesn't help and makes it very easy to say negative things to those we may not know and with whom we disagree. Mr. Rogers showed us another way. he explained that it's easy to call others "bad" and ourselves "good." But that doesn't help or heal anything. The medicine that is needed is to remember that although we are all different, we are all the same on the inside. "Fred Rogers’ favorite quote from his favorite book was this: “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” In English: “What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
4. It's our responsibility to care for the most vulnerable. Mr. Rogers was as gentle and caring in real life as he was on TV. he did, however, have an iron will and perfectionist standards. he demanded excellence from himself and everyone who worked with him on behalf of children. Mr. Rogers built his life and his work on his bedrock convictions. He is quoted as saying, "The problem is that when we deal with a group of people—one or more of whom is a child—we just can’t be impartial. None of us who have anything to do with families with young children can.” Children, and others who cannot care for themselves need our protection. Fred was certainly right on that issue. And finally,
5. We can work together to make a difference right where we are. Fred Rogers was an activist but did so from his own TV studio. He hired black actors and, in a wonderful display of integration, on one episode invited Officer Clemmons, a gay black actor, to dip his tired feet in the wading pool with him. he even shared a towel with officer Clemmons. Marching, calling, and writing letters is a wonderful way to get involved. But Mr. Rogers believed you could make a difference in living your life by your beliefs that everyone is equal and deserving of respect. We can all work toward the well-being of others no matter where we live or the work we do.
Mr. Rogers called on us to be neighbors. "He was calling us—gently but firmly--out of our structures of power and our silos of sameness, into lives of mercy and care for one another." Perhaps he was being overly optimistic about being something better than we are. He believed that if he could instill these ideas into young children that the world could become a better, more harmonious neighborhood. Much of the good that exists in the world today we owe to Mr. Rogers. Thank You, Fred, for these beautiful lessons.
I invite you all back here tomorrow for the August Calendar of Special Days. Until then, I wish you all