I just watched the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which gives a behind-the-scenes look into why Fred Rogers, known iconically as “Mr. Rogers,” started his show. Most do not know that Fred Rogers is a graduate of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. You could say that Mr. Rogers was a minister behind the television screen and, as a New York Times article states, "whose millions of congregants assembled in front of their parents’ television sets from the late 1960s until the early years of this century, absorbing his benign and friendly secular wisdom.”
I watched this documentary and was in love. It brought back joyful memories, tapped into my heart center, and awakened the dreams I always had for myself. The New York Times article goes on to say that, “Mister Rogers’ demeanor balanced openness with reserve, curiosity with tact. The most radical thing about him was his unwavering commitment to the value of kindness in the face of the world that could seem intent on devising new ways to be mean. ‘Let’s make the most of this beautiful day,’ he would sing at the start of each episode.”
This documentary got me to thinking about the state of our country today. It appears our country has morphed, creating new ways to be mean over the past couple of years. The idea of it’s “us against them,” and the narrative of “I am better than you” is in full effect. Folks are angry, fearful, and dealing with all sorts of hurtful attacks against decent beautiful human beings.
What’s really sad about this is our children are watching this and observing how the adults that are responsible for influencing their behavior respond to this increasing negative sentiment. Our children are growing up with trauma like none of us have likely experienced before. Yet, through it all, I see opportunities for growth in a positive direction for two reasons.
One, as a parent, I see how my responses directly affect my children. Undoubtedly, the division and hatred is unbearable at times. It certainly makes me sad and disappointed. At times, I lament and speak about the often grotesque bantering I hear. However, if I respond with the same type of hatred, division, apathy and hurtful words, so will my children. It’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay to be filled with hate.
Granted, my children could very well be swayed by social media, the music they listen to and their friends, but in the long run, they will often reflect the same views I project. This is why I have to shut out the world, gather my thoughts, and think about how God would have me respond. If I respond with my emotions, I will get it wrong every single time. I pray that I do what God would have me to do.
And now, after watching Mr. Rogers, I can think about how he would respond, with his unwavering commitment to the value of kindness.
The second way I see opportunities for growth in a positive direction is in our schools. The New York Times article goes on to say, “He [Mr. Rogers] acknowledged that anger, fear and other kinds of hurt are part of the human repertoire and that children need to learn to speak honestly about those feelings, and to trust the people they share them with.”
Our children need space to speak honestly about their feelings, and school is a great place to do this. This is especially helpful for teens as most of them pull away from their parents during their middle school and high school years.
Students need to know that they can trust the adults in their school. This is why the real core of education is the relationship between the educator and the student, as I wrote in my recent blog. Educators should take cues from Mr. Rogers in order to master the art of balancing openness with reserve, and curiosity with tact, with an unwavering commitment to kindness, love and generosity.
I believe the world would be a better place and we could make the most of each beautiful day by being our brother and sisters’ keeper, and by actually being one another’s neighbor.
Thank you, Mr. Rogers. I hope to continuously live out your message and share it often.
Interested in having Diana speak to your school or organization, click here to book her. Follow Diana on social media through #dpinspires for daily challenges on how to rise and commit to living your very best life. Download a free chapter or an audio sample of her book, Inspiration in My Shoes by visiting her website.