An Ode to Mr. Rogers

March 20 is Won’t You Be My Neigh­bor Day, in hon­or of the one, the only Mr. Rogers’s birth­day! Gen­er­a­tions of chil­dren grew up lis­ten­ing to the sooth­ing voice of Fred Rogers on his pub­lic broad­cast­ing tele­vi­sion pro­gram, Mis­ter Rogers’ Neigh­bor­hood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. For mil­lions of chil­dren like me, Fred Rogers was much like Mom and Dad; he had no first name. To sug­gest he was more than Mr. Rogers, the cardi­gan-wear­ing, gold­fish-feed­ing friend I vis­it­ed almost every day, would be blas­phe­mous. But as I have learned since mov­ing to Pitts­burgh, Mr. Rogers’ actu­al neigh­bor­hood, he was much more than the man I knew.

Born Fred McFeely Rogers (yes, as in Mr. McFeely, from the Speedy Deliv­ery Ser­vice!), Mr. Rogers had a bachelor’s degree in music com­po­si­tion, was an ordained Pres­by­te­ri­an min­is­ter, and attend­ed Uni­ver­si­ty of Pittsburgh’s Grad­u­ate School of Child Devel­op­ment. He also held 40 hon­orary degrees from col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties across the coun­try. Not one. Not two. FORTY. In 2002, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush pre­sent­ed Mr. Rogers with the high­est civil­ian hon­or in the coun­try, the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom, for a career encour­ag­ing the well-being of chil­dren through lessons of kind­ness, com­pas­sion, and learn­ing. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 74, leav­ing behind his wife, Joan­ne, of more than 50 years, two sons, and mil­lions of chil­dren whose child­hoods wouldn’t have been as mag­i­cal with­out him.

If for any rea­son you might want to vis­it Mr. Rogers’ “imag­i­nary” friends, includ­ing Daniel Striped Tiger and King Fri­day the Thir­teen­th (and ‘by any rea­son’ I mean ‘why wouldn’t you?’), they are housed in Pittsburgh’s Children’s Muse­um alongside one of his icon­ic sweaters (which his moth­er knit­ted), and his sneak­ers.

Mr. Rogers, thank you for being our neigh­bor, our men­tor, our friend. Hap­py birth­day, with love.

At Home With Mr. Rogers

Pitts­burghers, nos­tal­gia should be hit­ting you right in the feels, now, and you’re prob­a­bly think­ing ‘Man, I miss Mr. Rogers.’ He may not be around town any­more in per­son, but his spir­it is still alive. It’s always a lit­tle thrilling when a cus­tomer catch­es sight of one of Kards Unlimited’s Mr. Rogers prod­ucts and begins to regale me with a tale of meet­ing, din­ing, or actu­al­ly being a neigh­bor of the Rogers fam­i­ly.

For the rest of us, we can keep Mr. Rogers alive in our own house­holds with offi­cial­ly licensed Mr. Rogers gear. My favorite? Mis­ter Rogers Sweater Chang­ing Mug. Fea­tur­ing all of his most heart­warm­ing quotes, add a warm bev­er­age of choice, and his sweater changes between an icon­ic blue cardi­gan and yel­low cardi­gan. Some days, it’s the lit­tle things that make a per­son feel good, and this touch of mag­ic is a great way to start off the day on the right foot.

Some­times the world can seem like a scary place. Mr. Rogers always had a way of mak­ing his view­ers feel a lit­tle more coura­geous. He taught  us how to be gra­cious for what we have. He knew exact­ly what to say to make life a lit­tle eas­ier. Day to day, I wish there were more peo­ple like him, ready to give me a one-lin­er to help me through a chal­lenge, but he’s still there for me. When I need a boost of con­fi­dence before a meet­ing, I can pull out my Encour­agem­ints. The unbeat­able com­bo of fresh breath and an encour­ag­ing “Why? Because I like you!” calms the nerves. When I’m fac­ing a dead­line at school, noth­ing helps me take notes bet­ter than Mis­ter Rogers’ Neigh­bor­hood sticky notes.

But the great­est gift we have from Mis­ter Fred Rogers will always be the words he left for us. When life gets a lit­tle com­pli­cat­ed, turn to any one of three vol­umes of Mis­ter Rogers wis­dom: Life’s Jour­ney Accord­ing to Mis­ter Rogers, The World Accord­ing to Mis­ter Rogers, and Many Ways to Say I Love You. The­se books prove that, though Mis­ter Rogers may be gone, he will always be our friend.

 

So, what do you think?