Kindness 101 – Won’t You Be My Neighbour Documentary Hits Home
“I like you as you are…I think you turned out nicely.”
– Lyrics from Mr. Rogers song
Have you seen the Mr. Roger’s documentary?
If not, I highly recommend it. My niece, Emily (age 20), and I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbour not once but twice in one weekend.
Emily is an Early Childhood Education student at Mount Royal University, so it makes sense she would be interested. As for me…well, I watched it the first time because Emily wanted to see it. I watched it the second time (and took notes) because I couldn’t believe how profoundly impacted I was by the now-deceased host of a slow-paced and seemingly simple children’s TV show (that ran from 1968 to 2001).
And here’s the even weirder thing: I didn’t even watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood growing up! I don’t know why. I guess the show never really clicked with me. I preferred Mr. Dressup, Casey, Finnegan and the gang.
At any rate, I’m hoping that what I missed out on by not watching Mister Rogers as a kid, I have now somewhat made up for having watched the documentary…twice ?
If I had to use a single word to describe the message that Fred Rogers was most passionate about trying to communicate in his show, it would be kindness.
Acceptance, tolerance, compassion and unconditional love would all follow close behind.
There is a great line in the documentary by one of the many people interviewed (who knew Fred personally or professionally) that sums up what Mr. Rogers stood for:
“Fred’s theology was to love your neighbor and yourself.”
Simple, yes. Easy, no. I recently spent seven years of my life despising my noisy neighbors…and have been working for the past year writing a play script about the experience, which is probably another reason this documentary crossed my path when it did.
This is another comment, by one of the people interviewed, that also really resonated with me:
“Fred realized that if you really want to communicate, you have to listen.”
Here are some sage snippets by Fred himself, pulled from the film:
“The space between the TV screen and the person receiving the message…I consider that very holy ground.”
“You’ve made this day a special day just by being you.”
“What do you do with the mad you feel…when you feel so mad that you could bite?”
“I think silence is one of the greatest gifts that we have.”
“Sometimes we need to struggle with tragedy to feel the gravity of love. Love is what keeps us together and afloat.”
“You don’t ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you.”
“No matter what your particular job, especially in our world today, we all are repairers of creation…thank you for whatever you do.”
Even though I am not a parent myself, this comment really hit home:
“I’ll tell you what children need. They need adults who will protect them from the ever-ready molders of our world.”
And as you may have heard, there is also a feature film about Mr. Rogers in the works, starring Tom Hanks…can’t wait! Emily and I will be first in line 🙂
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. Maryanne is CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here. As a thank you, you’ll receive a short but saucy e-book entitled, Dive into this Chicago Deep Dish – Ten Bite-Sized Steps for a Yummier Slice of Life.