I can write this story because I’m older and I now know about life, at least the years I’ve lived. And, in getting to my age, I’ve acquired one of the most precious things one can have–perspective.
That’s why I know the unwavering appeal of a man like Mr. Rogers. He wasn’t flashy; he was never flip or callous. He treated all with the utmost respect and tolerance. And for all these reasons, we loved him.
Mr. Rogers is the iconic figure who entertained children for many years while teaching them other core values.
In the beginning, television industry leaders feared his message would never fly for its low-key approach, but he showed them otherwise. Children and adults alike ate up whatever Mr. Rogers dished out. I know that personally: My daughter and I were two of his biggest fans.
Each day I’d exit my job as teacher at a public junior high school, pick up my child at daycare, do the inevitable household errands of grocery shop, laundry, cleaners, etc. Finally, we’d come home; I’d put away the items, and snap on the television.
Mr. Rogers was on.
From the moment the familiar music began, to his changing his suit jacket and shoes to the more relaxed button-down sweater, and sneakers, Mr. Rogers hypnotized. His soft voice, combined with his slow movement lulled us both into a relaxed state. We were ready for the neighborhood experience during which we met characters who taught us all the day’s lesson on humility, sharing, gratitude, generosity, truthfulness–high-brow lessons delivered by regular folks.
That successful format made him an unlikely star in a highly-competitive market and his success went on for 40+ years, a time during which the United States suffered social paroxysms: wars with their brutal cost to our economy; economic gyrations, a divorce rate that skyrocketed.
In short, we Americans became a whole different people. We no longer bought into the “Leave It to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best“ illusion. Reality had replaced all that. Single parents now ruled the familial landscape. I knew that fact: I was one.
What never changed throughout that period of societal upheaval was Mr. Rogers. He was the steady voice of constancy through all, and for that reason, we loved him.
Today, when network experts jockey for the next big winner in the children’s entertainment field, they disregard his formula, relying, instead, on shock shows like “Honey Boo Boo” and “Tots ’n Tiaras,” programs that do little to expand anyone’s horizons.
They should look, instead, to this man’s success.
Mr. Rogers was never Hollywood handsome (most would have called him ‘dorky;’) he spoke a good clean message of tolerance, forgiveness, and fair play; he championed the uniqueness in all of us.
He was ever excited to learn from others, to see the world from their perspective, and his low-key excitement was infectious.
Sound effects and special effects (Were there any?) never trumped what was going on, and they didn’t compete for attention, either. Conversations were quiet and respectful.
In the end, I never turned on Mr. Rogers just for my child: I turned him on for me, too.
His program was a lovely oasis in a day that was often rushed, chaotic, and sometimes disappointing.. When Mr. Rogers was on, both parent and child could sit back, relax, and trust…no small order.
Mr. Rogers died at 74 (here’s the link)…and when he did, we all lost a steady helmsman who helped us through this often-tumultuous journey called “Life.”
Children and their parents, today, need another Mr. Rogers ………
(Click on this link to revisit the opening song of Mr. Rogers’ show…Just hearing it calms me.)
What do you think of Mr. Rogers’ impact on those generations and does anyone come close to that effect, today?