“Won’t You Be my Neighbor?” What I Learned From Mister Rogers About Life




I wrote this when I first started writing. Mister Rogers, (the creator of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood),was born on March 20 1928, and died ion February 27, 2003. I decided to put this on my blog in light of the new movie that’s out in theaters titled, “Won’t You  Be my Neighbor?” If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s very well done. However, it’s not meant for young children. It’s rated PG-13. This year would’ve been his 90th birthday. I’m sending a thank you note to heaven.

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” Mister Rogers

Dear Mister Rogers,

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood ….” My name is Rachael Benson. You and I have been television neighbors since the day I was born on February 8, 1983. I am now twenty-four years old and I still watch your show whenever I can. I never get tired of the songs, or of seeing how people make things such as bicycles, crayons, backpacks, etc. I also never get tired of knowing that I’m “special.” It’s neat to hear you call me your “friend” through the television and know that you mean it. I am now 24 years old, and I still watch your show whenever I can. I never get tired of the songs, or of seeing how people make things such as bicycles, crayons, backpacks, etc. I also never get tired of knowing that I’m “special.” It’s neat to hear you call me your “friend” through the television and know that you mean it.

Lots of people my age would think I’m crazy for watching a children’s program. Because of the puppets and simple lyrics, they only see it as child’s play. If they would look beneath the surface, they would see a whole lot more. The truth is, no matter how old you are, everyone needs to hear, “You make each day such a special day for me. You know how. By just your being you. There’s only one person in the whole world like you. People can like you exactly as you are.”

Everyone needs to come to a point where they accept themselves the way they are before others will like them. You said it yourself, “Deep within us- no matter who we are- lives a feeling of wanting to be loveable; of wanting to be the kind of person others like to be with. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” I couldn’t agree more.

A lot of people won’t watch your show because it’s slow. I have cerebral palsy. Maybe it’s because of my disability and the fact that I can’t move so easily that I don’t mind the slow pace. But then again, the truth is that no matter what age you are, we all need to learn to slow down and take our time, so we don’t make mistakes. We ALL need to learn how to be patient and wait for things; not just little kids.

These “get rich quick” schemes aren’t real. Anything of good quality is worth the wait. I can think of nine things to do at one time even if I can’t do them physically. My mom is always telling me, “Slow down you’re putting energy into planning something that is months from now.”

“Someday you’ll be a grown-up too and you’ll have children grow up too.” The key word in that song is someday. Nothing happens fast in our culture the way we would like it to because it isn’t natural. The slow and steady process is what is natural. You’re right Mister Rogers when you say, “That’s not just a song for children. No. Someday you’ll be a grown-up too and you’ll have children grow up too. Then you can love them in and out and tell them stories all about the times when you were their size… that’s a little hint for you know who.”

If more people could look beneath the surface and really listen to what you are saying, they would realize that your songs are simple on purpose so that all people can understand your messages. Unfortunately, too many people my age tease me about the fact that I watch your program to understand that. Too many people my age think they’re too old for your program and I think that’s really sad. When I try to explain to people that your show and songs are for everybody, the response I get is often something like this: “His songs are for children. Mister Rogers is for kids.” People just don’t get it.

Even in my family the only one who seems to understand and who will watch your program with me is my mother. Her name is Rosemary. No matter how old I get, my mother has never minded your television visits. To her, it’s better that I watch your show than a lot of the other stuff that is on television for people my age. In the Pittsburgh magazine somebody said, “It was reality television at its best.” Again, I agree. Instead of throwing furniture and calling people names, you dealt with things like anger in a constructive manner. Even though the characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe might disagree sometimes, they always came to a solution and said “sorry.”

My mother also likes the program because of the principles behind it. She knew that you were a Christian by your character. You hid it so well because you wanted to reach more than just Christians. I didn’t even recognize it until I got older and more people (including Amy Hollingsworth and the people at Family Communications) started to put out some information about you in 2003.

I remember the first time I realized that you were a Christian. I was about nine or 10. You wrote the word “agape” in Greek and you told viewers that it meant love. I realized that it was the same kind of love the Apostle Paul talks about in the Bible. The same kind of unconditional love that Christ had when he died on the cross. It was then that my mother told me that you had a degree in ministry; you just didn’t have a church. I remember another time when you were talking about day/and night care. Daniel Stripped Tiger wanted to know who made things and Lady Aberlin’s response to everything was “God.” You were careful because you wanted to live it out more than anything and you didn’t want to offend people who weren’t Christians, but if people look and listen carefully (as one of your songs says) they might be able to figure it out.

The Song “The Truth Shall Make Me Free” comes right out of the Bible. In John 8:31-32 Jesus said, “If you hold to my teachings you are really my disciples. Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.”

The song “Then Your Heart Is Full of Love” is full of Christian principles from beginning to end. “When your heart can sing another’s gladness, then your heart is full of love. When your heart can cry another’s sadness, then your heart is full of love.” In Romans 12:15 Jesus said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 13:34). You sang, “When your heart has room for everybody, then your heart is full of love.”

Everything you did was full of Christian principles. Here I was going to church memorizing Bible verses and I didn’t even know it! You slid it right underneath my feet.

Another reason that explains why my mother has never minded that I watch your show even when I’ve gotten past the age that most people would typically watch it is that it is always clean. She likes the show because with you she has “never had to worry about what was on.” Those are her exact words. Unlike most shows that start out okay for children and then change, your show has never changed. It has always been the same.

Even I don’t like a lot of what is on television today. I can’t handle the news for very long because it’s all about who killed who and the war in Iraq and people hating one another. I’m more of a comedy show type person, but even those are getting dirtier and dirtier. It’s getting to the point where I like to watch some of my old videos or read instead of watching television.

Most of television today (in the year 2007) has no value. If you were on Earth today, I’m sure you would have a lot to say about it given your “Fame is a four-letter word” speech. Americans would get an ear full! You encourage people to be themselves and assure children and adults alike that it is okay to still enjoy younger toys. You bring back memories of what life was like for me before I had to think so much and start making some hard decisions in my young adult years. Your voice has a soothing effect.

I love the second and third stanza in “Please Don’t Think It’s Funny” when you say, “It’s great to know you’re growing up bigger every day, but somehow things you like to remember are often put away. And sometimes you wonder over and over if you should stay inside, when you enjoy a younger toy… You never need to hide. In the long, long trip of growing There are stops along the way, for thoughts of all the soft things and the look of yesterday. For a chance to fill our feelings, With comfort and with ease, and then tell the new tomorrow,”You can come now when you please.”

That is encouraging because one day when I was in high school I tried to watch something else because I got tired of being teased; but I couldn’t help it; I went right to your program. My mother told me I was probably destined to work with children and that rather than try to get away from it, I should take all the notes I can. I knew she was right and from then on, I didn’t worry about it. At least when she was in the room. If other people came in, I did change the channel because I didn’t want to hear any negative comments.

You know what righteous anger is. You said, “Usually when I get angry it’s because somebody has demeaned somebody else.” That’s why you wrote, “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?” Ephesians 4:26 says, “Let not the sun go down on your anger.” You also knew that Jesus is the only one who is perfect. That is the point behind the song, “Sometimes People are Good.”

Mister Rogers, thank you for bringing joy to my childhood and for giving my mother peace of mind when I watch the television. You referred to the television as “Holy Ground” and said, “Why in the world couldn’t we use this thing called television for the broadcasting of grace throughout the land?” Good question Mister Rogers. Even if they never mentioned God, I wish more people in television could see it the way you see it – as a ministry. Thank you for taking it so seriously. Because of that, you’ve had such an impact on my life. Even from way up there in heaven. I can’t wait to meet and talk to you face to face. “When your heart beats for a special someone, then your heart is full of love.” Mister Rogers, you truly are a special someone. My heart will always beat for you. You are always welcome in my home. I will always have a special place in my heart for you because “You are special.”

Love,
Rachael Benson

 

 

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