Sunday Morning

Often people are moved to tears by sadness, but occasionally people are moved to tears by goodness. That’s what happens to the audiences of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the new documentary about Fred Rogers.

The documentary demonstrates how Rogers’s children’s show got started and how he used it over 30 years to teach and accompany children. It describes the famous opening sequence — Mister Rogers going to the closet, putting on the sweater, changing his shoes. It describes how he gently gave children obvious and nonobvious advice: You are special just the way you are; no, children can’t fall down the drains in the bathtub.

Sometimes he would slow down time, be silent for long periods as he fed his fish. Occasionally “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” touched politics. During the civil rights era, when black kids were being thrown out of swimming pools, Rogers and a black character bathed their feet together in a tub. After Bobby Kennedy was killed, Rogers gently explained what an assassination was.

There’s nothing obviously moving here, and yet the audience is moved: sniffling, wiping the moisture from their cheeks. The power is in Rogers’s radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scarce. It’s as if the pressure of living in a time such as ours gets released in that theater as we’re reminded that, oh yes, that’s how people can be.

Moral elevation gains strength when it is scarce.

But there’s also something more radical going on. Mister Rogers was a lifelong Republican and an ordained Presbyterian minister. His show was an expression of the mainline Protestantism that was once the dominating morality in American life.

Once, as Tom Junod described in a profile for Esquire, Rogers met a 14-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy left him sometimes unable to walk or talk. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.

The boy was thunderstruck. He had been the object of prayers many times, but nobody had asked him to pray for another. He said he would try since Mister Rogers must be close to God and if Mister Rogers liked him he must be O.K.

Junod complimented Rogers on cleverly boosting the boy’s self-esteem, but Rogers didn’t look at the situation that way at all: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

~ David Brooks, from “Fred Rogers and the Loveliness of the Little Good” (NY Times, July 5, 2018)


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Comments

  1. A fine man if there ever was one.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I get such a warm fuzzy when I think of Mr. Rogers. Watched him religiously (if you’ll pardon the pun) when I was a kid. There was something so comforting about the show…his voice was hypnotic and his mien so inherently soothing. I always felt wrapped in warmth and security when I sat before the screen. I’ve found myself crying when watching the trailer for this film, and I think it’s because, as Brooks says, Rogers’ behavior is a potent reminder of how people can be. I am tired to the bone with all the nastiness these days, I really am.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. i have long admired him for so many reasons, and i know that i will cry my whole way through.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It was a staple of my childhood
    The world was a different place ( simpler? / better?) back then. What would happen if that show would be rolled out today? I shudder to think.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. A great Sunday service 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. He was a special man indeed. I can’t imagine today’s kids sitting and listening to him… then again, maybe they would…

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Christie says:

    Interesting post and coincidental for me…for the past three weeks I’ve stayed up late watching you-tube videos about people being kind, helping their fellow man and some of the wonder of devotion of man’s best friend…I just kept needing to be reminded that there is much Good in the World…Good Over-Shines, the awfulness…and when others witness the influence of Good, – Hope, Grace, Willingness to take a stand steps in…Courage Deployed and Love Extended…// Mr Rogers was such a Shining Light of Calmness, Gentleness, Care, Consistent, Soft Spoken, Encouraging…he helped children learn how to navigate in this world and in doing so children learned of their worth and that there are others in this world that are helpers when they need a hand…We need More strong encouragers in this world who influence other, by their uplifting actions …we all need to be More Grateful, Joyful, Happy for others and Sincere…Each Breath is a Gift…
    Kindly, Christie

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Christie says:

    I also love that Mr. Rogers was a man who loved God…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christie says:

    Just click the link in your offering…I did see any video just heard the audio…was their a video portion?

    Like

  10. Christie says:

    Mr Roger also taught acceptance…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great point…remember him well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Steven H Reiff says:

    Being from Pittsburgh , you gotta be as proud of Fred as you are the Steelers and Pens. My kids watched Mr Rogers and when he came on, there was peace and quiet. Mesmerizing , touching. They thought he was taking to them directly, and he was. Great man. Great show.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Thanks David. Shared this to my site with notation to yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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