Mind Matters — Mr. Rogers

Often, when parents with small children come into my office, I recommend that they and their children watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood together.

And I often get a raised eyebrow or a sideways glance and perhaps even a comment such as “Why?” or “He’s so … hmm.”

How unfortunate that Mr. Rogers is not taken seriously or worse—cast aside entirely. In this era where they hype is on “family values” while “reality” shows abound, Mr. Rogers, even though he died in 2003, through his program, provides real value.

Years ago, when my children were young, his programs offered a calming time for all of us. Mr. Rogers’ gentle manner and psychologically savvy words offered a soothing balm to daily frustrations of toddler-hood (and beyond).

When Mr. Rogers looks into the camera and says, “I like you just the way you are”, he is authentic. (My family and I met Mr. Rogers once and can attest that his kindness and attentiveness is genuine.)

In the World According to Mr. Rogers, a collection of his wise words, he states, “When I say, ‘It’s you I like’, I’m talking about … that deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind can’t survive: love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”

Mr. Rogers was not only an ordained minister but was also schooled in child development theory. So what can we glean from Mr. Rogers, his neighborhood, and his thoughtful songs? Perhaps we could learn how to be patient with one another; how to face our fears (“it’s only when I feel let down, I might be scared into a clown”); how to be aware of our feelings (“the very same people who are mad sometimes are the very same people who are glad sometimes”).

Mr. Rogers continues to remind us to imagine “… what our real neighborhood would be like if each of us offered as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person. … think of the ripple effect that can be created when we nourish someone. One kind empathetic word has a wonderful way of turning into many.”