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How Mister Rogers Can Inspire the Best In Us

Make It a Beautiful Day in Your Neighborhood

How is your Neighborhood today? Your inner circle of family and friends, that is. The Neighborhood many grew up with on television modeled kindness and compassion. Parents over the decades have gratitude that we all learned a better way to comport ourselves and treat one another.

Fred Rogers Center Stock Photo
Fred Rogers became a cultural icon who inspired many
Source: Fred Rogers Center Stock Photo

I watched plenty of the Neighborhood while raising two sons, grateful for that PBS influence. As a freelance journalist, I treasured meeting him and attest to Rogers’s curiosity and care that other interviewers noted. Fred Rogers’s insights framed many assignments.

The recent motion picture finds an investigative reporter clutching pen and paper as much as his hardened past of childhood losses. Lloyd Vogel isn’t sure what to make of that genuine interest in the human condition, nor the puppets. His magazine filler transforms into an in-depth feature and his life from cynical to reunited. How that plays out makes for sheer movie-watching delight.

There’s even humor. People in the Neighborhood did talk to puppets. Maybe we all should, rather than texting or tweeting. We’d be saner for it and for incorporating this wisdom into our lives:

Feelings matter. Mister Rogers’ framed The Little Prince quote: “L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux,” which reminded Rogers that what’s important in life is what’s inside—emotions.1

What’s mentionable is manageable. Rogers said, “When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary.”2 He encouraged a range of emotions with his song, “What Do You Do With the Mad That You Feel?”3 Rogers often used the piano for emotional release.4 This, too, comes across on the big screen.

Fred Rogers Co/Facebook
Fred Rogers commencement addresses at Dartmouth.
Source: Fred Rogers Co/Facebook

We can all figure out a way to deal with hidden drama, unspoken resentments, and inner frustrations. We must learn to give proper voice to emotion and manage it.

Take time for creative play. The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, the puppet kingdom, existed to show imagination, problem-solving, and growth. Imagined scenarios reflected the real world, always with important messages.

Mister Rogers showed that adults try new things, sometimes struggle, but try again. Roller skating, golfing, playing a musical instrument. Practice led to improvement, sometimes mastery, as numerous guests shared their extraordinary talents.5

Through play, we take on new roles and process experiences. Simple, not fancy, things, like cardboard boxes, art supplies, and ingenuity, can spark imagination such that play is the work of childhood and meaningful for adults, too.

Know and value your worth. There’s no one else quite like you or me. Mister Rogers drove this home, saying, “Everybody you meet has something special to give and receive.”6

In a world of self-doubt, hold that thought. We all have gifts. Each of us knows something more than another, and we can give that in full measure.

imdb/public poster
Tom Hanks, as Fred Rogers, touches one life but it may as well be each of ours.
Source: imdb/public poster

Accept where people are. Fred Rogers asked for empathy to understand what it’s like not to reach the light switch and to fear monsters.7

It’s wise also not to dwell upon what others cannot do quite yet. His quote: “I think the greatest gift you can ever give is an honest receiving of what a person has to offer” also speaks to this.8

Look for the helpers. Fred reiterated what his mother taught: “Especially in times of disaster… I’m always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”9

In appearances, Fred Rogers encouraged people to reflect upon those who helped and loved them into being. He kept a silent minute, then reiterated how proud our loved ones would feel, and how their encouragement stays with us.

Give without thought of gain. “Haven’t you found that the best way to be happy is to be helping somebody else?” Rogers said.10

Mister Rogers taught that caring relationships made way for patience, tolerance, pride in the achievements of others, and strength when we give anticipating nothing in return. No quid pro quo here.

Consider choices throughout life. It’s a choice to clean up our environment and a choice to destroy it. There’s a choice in healing or hurting. What choices go into touching the lives of others in meaningful ways or heroism in the midst of chaos?11

We all have decisions, especially in what we read and watch. I believe that today the biopic, along with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, are both models that lend hope to make future generations better neighbors for a stronger world.

You can now rent or own A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with these links:

Copyright @ 2020 by Loriann Oberlin. All rights reserved.


1. The Fred Rogers Company, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: Neighborly Words of Wisdom from Mister Rogers (New York: Penguin Books, 2019)

2. Quote retrieved from

3. The Fred Rogers Company, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The Poetry of Mister Rogers (Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2019)

4. A. Reid, M. Phelan, You Are My Friend: The Story of Mister Rogers and His Neighborhood (New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2019)

5. The Fred Rogers Company, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: A Visual History (New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2019)

6. M. Wagner, M. Dalton, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2019)

7. F. Rogers, Many Ways to Say I Love You (New York: Hyperion, 2006)

8. J.M. Laskas, “The Mister Rogers No One Saw,” The New York Times (Nov. 19, 2019), retrieved at

9. M. King, The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers (New York: Abrams: 2018)

10. M. Wagner, M. Dalton, Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (New York: Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2019)

11. Fred Rogers, 2002 Commencement Address at Dartmouth College retrieved at…