My husband and I went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the movie about Fred Rogers and his children’s program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. If you’ve seen the film, you know it is about an Esquire magazine writer who struggles with anger and unforgiveness toward his father. This writer was assigned a 400-word article for an issue devoted to heroes, but instead his encounter with Mr. Rogers impacted him and led him to write a 10,000-word cover story. This story about these two men exhibits ways we can make our own beautiful day in the neighborhood, and in turn be a hero of sorts.
Listen to others, put others first
First, the movie wasn’t what I expected, but I liked it. Tom Hanks portrays Mr. Rogers as a man who speaks softly and kindly, who doesn’t rush, who always thinks of the other person. He tells journalist Lloyd Vogel that people have to let their anger out through healthier ways like swimming fast laps, praying, pounding out the keys on the piano rather than with fists and angry words. Although Mr. Rogers has hurts of his own, the only glimpse of him showing his pain is at the end, and somehow, while poignant, left me a little sad. The advice isn’t bad, but I think the best way to work through our hurts is through talking with someone just to get it off our chest and to be embraced with the fact that we’re not alone in our emotions. Others suffer with the same emotions.
We’ve all been hurt in some way. Burying the hurt only provides a larger explosion with more shrapnel going farther in the end. Through his PBS television program, I think Mr. Rogers encouraged his viewers to talk with someone they trusted. Mr. Vogel learned this lesson also.
Keeping secrets hurts others, talk about your pain with someone you trust
Vogel’s father kept things from his wife until he was dying. Lloyd kept his feelings simmering and didn’t try to work through them by talking with his wife, which hurt her. Sometimes it’s just hard to talk about these hurts. Putting your finger on the trigger or the explanation of the hurt might prove evasive, but it’s there nonetheless. Telling someone to get over it or move on is the wrong thing to say because if the person could get past it alone, he would have done so. Nobody wants to be stuck in the mire of pain. Voicing your hurts to your spouse though can only draw you closer, even if all the spouse can do is listen. Nobody asks the other person to fix it. They can’t, but they can listen and help the hurting one to feel understood. That means a lot.
Pain is everywhere. It oozes out in our conversations, in articles and in programming. There it is in the newscast underlying the latest crimes, the latest political fights, the latest everything.
Fred Rogers spent a lifetime working on keeping his voice level and kind, on reaching out to the hurting, on loving those who desperately sought it though outwardly they pushed everyone away.
The greatest gift is to be loved, accepted
There are lots of subtle messages one could mine from the movie and from the children’s programming. You know the greatest truth shared is that every person just wants to be loved and accepted.
Love covers a multitude of sins. The greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength and to love our neighbor as our self.
Fred Rogers, an ordained minister, spent his life ministering to children, and in doing so affected them and their families. How did he minister? He loved. I heard of another article written about this subject; it said that children were attracted to Mr. Rogers because he cared about them. This was a man who lived out loving others the best he could. What an example!
Our lives tell a story of our beliefs. What does your life say about you? Remember none of us is perfect, but we can, with the help of Jesus, love others as Mr. Rogers did. If enough of us did it, we could really change the hurting world, couldn’t we?
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and the November 1998 Esquire cover story seem to be doing just that—getting the word out, I mean. The question is, what will we do with it?