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Lessons from Mr. Rogers

I had the delightful opportunity last night to watch Mr. Rogers: It's You I Like, a documentary about the beloved children’s television host. I was entranced because I loved Mr. Rogers Neighborhood as a child. Mr. Rogers is even more relevant for me now as the Executive Director of Child Care Resources of Rockland. The impact he had on children and on the world is immeasurable.

Before coming accidentally across the documentary (it was broadcast on a PBS station), I had been thinking recently of the other Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. I watched that movie with the CCRR staff at the end of our Board/Staff retreat last year, just a few weeks before my tenure as Executive Director began. (With our 2019 retreat taking place next week, I have been reflecting on last year while planning for the future.)

Watching Won’t You Be My Neighbor last year started for me through the lens of my childhood memories – the trolley heading to the Land of Make Believe to see King Friday, Daniel Tiger, and the others;  the many visitors from the neighborhood like Mr. McFeely the postman, Chef Brockett, and Officer Clemmons. As the film progressed, Mr. Rogers’ mission to empower children became evident; my eyes were opened to the simplicity and complexity of the show and what he did for children. Last night’s documentary did the same.

“Is it good for the children?” A timeless question. Mr. Rogers understood that. CCRR came into existence forty-five years ago because people believed in children and their need for opportunities to become whatever they dream to be, whether inspired by one person, or a village.

Hedda Sharapan wrote in a blog post honoring Mr. Rogers on what would have been his ninety-first birthday earlier this year, “Fred referred to…his 'television house.' But it wasn’t just the rooms and the furniture that made it feel like home. It was a place where there was a predictable routine; where people cared about you 'just because you’re you'; where it was okay to be sad or mad or scared; where people helped you deal with those feelings in a constructive way; and where people celebrated the little and big things that you do.” So simple and so complex.

In the end, children need love, compassion, and respect for being children. They are not little adults. Children go through the world with eyes and ears and hearts wide open to everything we can give them – the good and the bad. Our goal should be Mr. Rogers’ goal – to have a lasting impact on children and families.