Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

In two days the world will see Mr. Rogers at a deeper level. Something tells me it will simply be a taller glass of the same drink.

A Childhood with Limited Options
Growing up as child in the 80s my TV viewing options were not very numerous. There was NBC on channel 23, CBS on channel 29, ABC on channel 35, and PBS on channel 47.

That was it. There was no YouTube or Internet or probably electricity. I truly survived the wilderness of childhood.

So if I was ever sick and stayed home from school, my choices were soap opera, soap opera, soap opera, or PBS. Man those soap operas were good!

I’m joking, of course. As a kid I loved cartoons and children’s programming. PBS was my non-Saturday morning go to*. Watching Sesame Street and Bob Ross painting happy trees was simply a part of my childhood.

There was one particular personality that stood out like no other: Mr. Rogers.

More Than Meets the Eye
Mr. Rogers captivated audiences as a host of a low-budget children’s television show from 1968 to 2001. However, it’s who he was behind the scenes that shines a light of hope way beyond the span of his show.

Mr. Rogers truly cared about people. According to Heather Arnet, an assistant on the show, he responded to every bit of fan mail he received, which was typically between 50 and 100 letters a day.

Mr. Rogers celebrated music, bringing artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Van Cliburn, and Wynton Marsalis onto the show. In fact, Mr. Rogers wrote the theme songs for the show.

Why did Mr. Rogers tell everyone when he’s feeding the fish? In a tweet earlier this year, Christine Teigen explained why: “Mister Rogers would narrate himself feeding the fish each episode with, ‘I’m feeding the fish,’ because of a letter he received from a young blind girl who was worried the fish were hungry,” she wrote. “Love you, Mister Rogers.”

In a time of heated racial tension, Mr. Rogers had people of color and other diverse backgrounds on the show. He talked about topics that were hard to talk about like death and divorce in ways that helped kids grapple with the difficulties life can bring. He wasn’t afraid to do the right thing, no matter how challenging.

Living like Mr. Rogers
“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.’ ” – Mr. Rogers.

There is a world out there with people who need good neighbors. There are people who are marginalized, who are struggling, who are hurting. There are people who need help, or more accurately, there are people who need helpers.

Mr. Rogers is such an inspiration. He helped a lot of people. He helped people who watched him, and he helped people who were positively affected by his viewers. He was a helper to so many.

Now it’s our turn.

* Believe it or not, millennials, back in the dark ages of the 80’s pretty much the only time you could watch cartoons was on Saturday mornings. Back then you couldn’t watch things whenever you wanted. “On demand” was how you did chores.

David Bishop

David is CEO of Cedowin Productions, dedicated to helping you live your best life through positive habits. He has inspired tens of thousands to improve habits and communication through books, articles, workshops, and apps. He is the creator of AweVenture, helping families enjoy fantastic, active experiences and Zombie Goals, literally making building healthy habits a game. He’s authored several books including How to Create Amazing Presentations, 7 Steps to Better Relationships, and The Man in the Pit, which helps people who have loved ones struggling with depression.

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