A Few Things We Can Learn from Mr. Rogers

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I recently saw It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which starred Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers. I grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS, I even had a red sweater and my own Land of Make-Believe. So, instead of doing my thoughts on the movie, I thought I would share a few things we learned from Mister Rogers.

Credit: Lacey Terrell/Sony Pictures

Embrace Your Feelings & Feel Whatever You Need to Feel

“Everyone has lots of ways of feeling. And all those ways of feeling are fine,” he said. Because at the end of the day, “It’s what we do with our feelings that matter in this life.” Another quote he said in regards to this was, “There’s no should or should not when it comes to feelings. They’re part of who we are. When we believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.”

Before the episode ended, Mister Rogers shared his wish for us, his neighbors and viewers: “I trust that you’re growing in ways that will help you with whatever feelings you may have, when you’re a child and when you’re a grown up. I hope you’re able to respect whoever you are inside.”

Or as Dr. Margaret McFarland said, “Anything human is mentionable, and anything mentionable is manageable.” This is a phrase that’s brought up and used in the film as well when they are discussing death.

He even gives for anger management other solutions on how to channel that emotion like punch a bag, pound some clay or some dough, or round up friends for a game of tag. If you’re older, swap out game of tags for movie or game night with your friends. Something else to get you out of the house or situation, so you can focus on something else.

Divorce Happens

This is something I struggled with as a kid. My parents didn’t get along and moving didn’t make things better. I knew they argued and that my mom wanted to leave my dad. But I begged her not to leave him, because I didn’t want divorced parents. I could’ve really used a reminder from Mister Rogers on that one.

“Some people get married and after a while, they’re so unhappy with each other that they don’t want to be married anymore,” he explained. He went on to clarify that children should not feel guilty about a divorce happening as it’s not their fault.

Everyone is Unique and Complex

Sometimes we forget that everyone goes through their own things. While we’re all the main characters of our own stories, we’re also side characters or mentions in someone else’s. Sometimes we’re the good and other times we’re the bad. It doesn’t make us bad people. We’re each going through our journey and different things happen to each of us making us unique. One of the songs he commonly sung was:

Sometimes people are good, and they do just what they should,

but the very same people who are good sometimes

are the very same people who are bad sometimes.

It’s funny, but it’s true.

It’s the same, isn’t it for me…

Isn’t it the same for you?

Be a Good Neighbor

That doesn’t just mean to those that live near you, it means for everyone. Mister Rogers was a Presbyterian mister and “Neighbor” is biblical language, in the Bible instructs God’s people to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Lev. 19:18). Which is something the world needs a lot more of these days.

It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day
Since we’re together, we might as well say
Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please
Won’t you please
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

This song was in every episode. He never referred to the viewers as acquaintances or as boys and girls, no he called us neighbors.

Look for the Helpers

Mister Rogers once said in an episode on tragic events, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”

It’s true, sometimes the news focuses so heavily on the negative that they overlook the helpers. But they’re there trying to make a difference. Whether that’s in natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or school shootings. There’s always a tale of someone who is there helping. Instead of focusing on the negative of the event, there’s a lot of humanity that comes out in them. And I’m not talking about the kind words or the “thoughts and prayers” that happen during those, I mean the ones who protected someone’s life or put everything on the line to rescue someone from that situation.

Or as Mister Rogers put it, “The media shows the tiniest percentage of what people do. There are millions and millions of people doing wonderful things all over the world, and they’re generally not the ones being touted in the news.”

Credit: Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images

There are so many more things that can be learned from Mister Rogers, but to save this from being a full length novel, I’m going to end it there. If you haven’t seen It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I recommend it. It’s a good story and a good reminder of some of these life lessons.


Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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