Today is what would have been Mister Rogers 84th birthday.
If you are one of the millions of children who grew up watching Mister Rogers, you know what a special person he was (and is).
Someone please tell me; Why is Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood labeled as a kid’s program? Do adults not see how beneficial these lessons can be?
Sometimes, when I am having a rough day, I pop over and watch an old episode. Mister Rogers always puts things in perspective. Somehow #snookiproblems don’t seem so important inside The Neighborhood of Make-Believe.
And sometimes, when I see or hear someone being nasty or acting like a meanie head (yes that’s a technical term) I try to think of what Mister Rogers would say or do in the same situation. Usually I think he would try to demonstrate some deeply profound act of kindness, then *take off his sweater and get the hellouttadodge.
*Did you ever notice that? Every episode started with him coming home and donning a sweater, but every episode ended with him taking the sweater off and leaving and singing It’s Such a Good Feeling. But why? It was his house. Where did he need to go? He was already home, no? This never made sense to me. I always wondered if there was a Mrs. Rogers. Did they have a dog. What did they eat? Why did Mr. McFeely bring letters but no electric bills? The world will never know
Familiar as he is to all of us, there was a lot more to him than what we saw on the show. For instance;
1. He saved public television. In 1969 Mister Rogers went to Washington to protest the slashing of funds to public television, and his testimony was so persuasive that funding was not only secured but increased to $22 million per year.
2. He was colorblind. Not just metaphorically, literally. He could not make out the colors in a box of crayons, which is rather sad when you consider that ridiculously awesome trip to the Crayola factory.
3. He was a song writer. Nearly all of the songs on Mister Rogers Neighborhood were composed by Mister Rogers on his famous piano, along with hundreds of others that were never heard on the show.
4. He was a Preacher Man. Mister Rogers graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained a minister in the Presbyterian Church in 1963.
5. He employed Batman. Michael Keaton, famous for playing Batman got his start in showbiz as a puppeteer and trolley operator on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
6. He instilled honor among thieves. Mister Rogers drove an old Impala for years until the car was stolen and the police report was picked up by the local news…48 hours later the car was returned with a note that read, “If we’d known it was yours, we never would have taken it.”
7. He learned to golf with Arnold Palmer. Both natives of Latrobe, PA, Mister Rogers grew up taking lessons from professional golfer and country club grounds keeper, Deacon Palmer, along side Deacon’s son of the same age, Arnold.
8. He named his characters after family members. Lady Elaine (“the mischief maker”) was named for his younger sister Elaine, Mr. McFeeley the postman was named for his paternal grandfather Fred McFeeley, Queen Sara Saturday was named for his wife Sara Rogers, among others.
9. He was a Vegetarian. He told people “I don’t want to eat anything that has a mother.”
10. His Mama was crafty. Nearly all of Mister Rogers zip front cardigans were knitted by his mother, a “talented and resourceful” woman who took up knitting sweaters for injured soldiers in WWII.
Cool dude, huh?
Look, I’m not going to go on some big preachy binge here and say we should all be kinder to our neighbors, but I can tell you that I will be making a point to honor Mister Rogers by being the very best neighbor I can be. Today. I’m going to do something nice for someone who is least expecting it. I am going to show appreciation toward someone is usually overlooked. I am going put on a zippered cardigan, change into my tennis shoes and take a look around.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Happy Birthday Mister Rogers!