Take the Tissues:
The new Fred Rogers documentary highlights 'Mister Rogers'' understanding that everyone needs to be heard and accepted--just the way they are.
Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people.–Fred Rogers
The antique chair pictured in this blog is an anomaly in my mid-century modern home. It sits in the entryway, so it is the first thing I see (besides my big dog waiting for me) when I enter the house. The chair belonged to my grandma Mary Selakovich. It was one of the chairs at her kitchen table. My grandpa had painted the chairs white, but when my grandma died, my mom got the chair, cleaned off the paint and gave it to me. Whenever I see the chair, I think of my grandma.
Grandma Mary was a tiny, birdlike woman with long, grey braids that she folded on top of her head, and bright blue eyes. She liked to wear blue. Not dark blue, but Robin’s egg blue – a blue shift dress, a blue and white checked apron. Because my grandparents lived in Colorado, I have always associated that color blue with Colorado. The mountains in the distance, the shadows on snow in the winter, the mountain lakes – all blue.
Grandma Mary always listened to me. She asked me real questions, not the usual kinds of questions that adults ask children because they don’t know what else to say. She asked and then listened intently as I answered. She gave me her opinion. She made me feel special and smart.
I’m thinking of my grandma because I went to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” the documentary of Fred Rogers, or as most of us know him, “Mister Rogers” of the long-running children’s show on PBS, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”
Mister Rogers understood children, and he understood the transcendent and transformative power of love. He understood that every human being needs to be heard and respected, even children – especially children. Above all, Mister Rogers admired the small, the quiet, the weak, and the marginalized because their struggle was much greater than his own. He wanted to hear what they had to say, and to accept them just the way they are.
You will tear up at “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” The women sitting behind me were openly crying, not because it is sad, but because it is happy. There are good people in the world who challenge us to do the right thing.
The film is a good reminder to parents to love our children for who they are, no matter what. Too often, love can come with strings attached, and often those “strings” are unspoken, but they are heard loud and clear from children. I love you, but I wish you were…..
He also understood that children will fill in with their imaginations whatever we don’t help them understand. Mr. Rogers spent a week helping children understand death. He talked about divorce and fear and fighting. But he also taught children about love and hope and acceptance.
At the end of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” you’re asked to silently remember someone who, like Mr. Rogers, accepted you just the way you are. I thought of Grandma Mary.