I believe in Mr. Rogers. Yes, I am a 36-year-old woman, and dear Mr. Rogers has left this earth. However, I choose to believe that his loving kindness was a precious gift in my life. My exposure to “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” was an important piece of what makes me who I am today – a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, and psychologist. I grew up in a small town in the middle of nowhere and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood showed me that there was a great big world outside of my little existence. His gentleness, his assurance that I can be liked just the way I was, and the joy with which he shared his world made my world seem safe and helped me feel important.
Now, it is a singular pleasure that I can re-experience Mr. Rogers with my young son. As I watch now, with grown-up eyes and a grown-up heart, I am often moved by the deep love and respect Mr. Rogers showed his “neighbors” – would that everyone could have a person just like him along their journey in life. Even though he is talking to children, he has lessons for all of us. It’s OK to be scared, happy, angry, nervous, excited. Our feelings are all OK in Mr. Rogers’ eyes. He tells us that it’s important to find healthy ways to express our thoughts and feelings. He tells us that what’s inside is the important part – not what the outside looks like. Without fanfare or special attention, his neighborhood is filled with the beautiful diversity of life – what a gift for the little girl living in an area where “diversity” meant being of Norwegian heritage instead of German.
I try to catch Mr. Rogers a few times a week with my son (OK, I have even turned it on a few times when he was napping!). When we watch, I sing along with Mr. Rogers, hug my son, and laugh as he waves to Mr. Rogers at the end of the show. I am grateful to the powers that be who continue to show a decades old program that resonates as perfectly today as it did when I was very young. I am grateful that Mr. Rogers helped me become the woman I am and the mother I am to my beautiful son. I am grateful that Mr. Rogers found the perfect way to share himself with me and millions of others. Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for helping me to believe that people are generally good and kind – you certainly were the best and kindest of all.
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