I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood- it was a staple in my Canadian childhood. But as time passed, I moved on. I probably thought I was too grown up, important or busy to watch a “kid’s show.” It was slow and predictable- exactly the opposite of everything else on TV. Honesty, and compassion are the values on which he built a community, aka the Neighborhood, for everyone. As I step into my role as a parent, friend, neighbor, the simplicity of his message acts as an anchor.
Maybe it’s having kids myself now, and remembering the things I enjoyed when I was younger, that brought me back to this icon. Lately, I’ve been seeing more about him, and each time I see that happy dependable face, it reminds me of the comfort and stability he offered for all those years.
So, I picked up the Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood DVDs from the library to (binge)watch. I was immediately brought back to my own playroom when I was young. The words to the songs, Make Believe land, and the calming presence of Mister Rogers himself had me feeling all gooey inside. His earnestness, joy and mindfulness resonated with me; they comforted me. No rushing, no running, no busying from here to there. I always have a project on the go, places to be, businesses to run, schedules to organize, errands to run, but now I’m reevaluating that. I think my endless multitasking is adding, rather than subtracting to the chaos and distractions in my life.
And so, where were we? Oh yes, how easy it is to get distracted.
As we watched Mister Rogers, I also watched my daughter. I wondered, would she think this show was as sweet as I do? Would she find it corny or dull? After all, she’s growing up surrounded by YouTube influencers, unlimited subscription services, reality TV and live streaming. But, you know what? She loved it. Maybe it was a relief to slow down or refreshing to have a character talk to her, rather than at her. To have things explained patiently and respectfully.
How can I take these lessons and apply them to be the best neighbor and ultimately, person I can be.
1. Slow down. Taking the time to do a task, and do it right. Being present in every moment and practicing patience with myself and others.
2. Recognize and accept my feelings. Give them my attention rather than allowing them to overwhelm and frustrate me. Also, give this same respect and attention to the feelings of other’s.
3. Show the love and acceptance that was so proudly modeled on this show, reminding us that everyone is worthwhile, that everyone has a special role to play in the neighborhood.
4. Live with integrity to my true self. By letting my little light shine bright in the world, by literally being me, I can make the world a better place.
5. And of course, always look dapper and have a pair of inside shoes handy.
Mister Rogers’ recognized that times were changing and his ability to speak and listen to children (let’s be real, to everyone really) was his gift to the world. His message, needed more than ever, was ahead of his time and won’t ever go out of date. Never wavering, Mister Rogers stood firm in his beliefs that all of humanity are neighbors, and that’s an idea that will never become old-fashioned.
Won’t you be my neighbor?