It is a scene engraved in minds that span generations: the door opening followed by a gentle smile, a careful walk down the steps, a swift change from jacket to sweater, and a flick of the shoe from right hand to left.
For over thirty years we were welcomed with open arms into the living room of Mr. Rogers just the way we were with no judgment, conjecture, or apprehension. The PBS staple Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood took the power of television and used it as a tool to transcend the entertainment programming that filled the airwaves for a higher purpose: conveying a sense of validation to children watching everywhere. Through song, stage, and intimate discussion, Fred Rogers tuned in to children’s fears and took on the heavy task of simplifying life’s difficulties in hopes of building a strong foundation to overcome the challenges that lie ahead.
Above all else, Mr. Rogers’ highest priority was to enable growth through the assurance of self-value. Although the program’s target audience was children, the lessons taught – if heeded closely – could apply to viewers of all ages. We take look at some of his most essential and timeless lessons learned over the years.
The long, long trip of growing
Growth is not measured by age or size. It’s an intangible asset that, given its very nature, has no limitations. Every day is a learning experience and if we approach our encounters with an open mind we can utilize them to embolden our character and identity. There is no cap on what we can learn from one another.
“Discovering the truth about ourselves is the work of a lifetime, but it’s worth the effort”
Nothing is forever
For better or worse, nothing lasts forever. Such a large concept is a double-edged sword. This notion can apply to something as short as a passing rush of emotion or as lengthy as a relationship with a family member. Often our daily lives can move so fast we lose sight of the reality of this two-way street so it’s healthy to remind ourselves of the temporary nature of everything and act appropriately.
“Young children don’t know that sadness isn’t forever. It’s frightening for them to feel that their sadness may overwhelm them and never go away. “The very same people who are sad sometimes are the very same people who are glad sometimes” is something all parents need to help their children come to understand.”
Opportunity arises from adversity
Difficult situations in life are inevitable. It is in how we choose to respond to them that defines us. When these situations arise, we have a chance to help ourselves and help others if we see the opportunity and act appropriately. That in itself is a challenge, to overcome hardship and keep an open mind in the moment, but also to acknowledge that the chance to make the best of a less-than-ideal situation can make all the difference.
“When I was a child I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’.”
It’s OK to ask for help
As we grow older one of the emotions we are inclined to project is pride. There’s something in the human psyche that exacerbates a need for self-sufficiency. While we do need to obtain a certain level of independence, there should be no shame in reaching out to your fellow neighbor for help. There’s an innate human desire to help one another; we need to take as much as we need to give.
“We’d all like to feel self-reliant and capable of coping with whatever adversity comes our way, but that’s not how most human beings are made. It’s my belief that the capacity to accept help is inseparable from the capacity to give help when our turn comes to be strong.”
“It’s You I Like”
There is no truer or more impactful message Mr. Rogers ever conveyed than the four simple words “It’s you I like.” The short time that we have on this earth is precious and even though we will be tested on many fronts in the long, long trip of learning, we should always find celebration in who we are and what we bring to this world. May you continue to feel comfortable in your own skin, follow your bliss, and heed these words from Mr. Rogers…
“I hope that you’ll remember/Even when you’re feeling blue/That it’s you I like/It’s you yourself/It’s you…”
Public domain image of Fred Rogers