Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Reflection on The Life of Mister Rogers by Sarah J. McNeal

I didn’t grow up with Mr. Rogers like so many kids did. Lucky them. Even if he had been on TV when I was a kid I still wouldn’t have had the chance to see him because we didn’t have TV except those transient times when Mom found some second hand TV for $5 or $10 that only lasted a week or two. But for those of you who were fortunate enough to get to know him, I am so happy for you.
Fred Rogers was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania in 1928. He didn’t sail through his childhood on some magic carpet. Like most of us, he suffered some emotional setbacks. Kids made fun of him because he was overweight and he did not make friends easily. Mostly, he was alone and somewhat shy and introverted. In high school a life changing circumstance happened to him. He worked with a football hero who was, naturally very popular. Their relationship grew and they became lifelong friends. Because of their association, Fred became accepted by his classmates and began to move out of his shell. He began to be a positive influence on others.

His first experience watching TV had a negative effect on him. He watched as two men threw pies in each other’s face. Fred thought that was so demeaning for anyone to do and for children to watch such a thing. Though his goal in life was to become a theologian, he had several jobs working in TV studios which gave him some great ideas about what he really wanted to do to help kids—kids who were poor or picked on, or sad, or treated with disregard by even their parents.

He did become a Presbyterian minister. But then circumstances and opportunities came his way so that he became the director of a children’s TV program. He didn’t like being the center of the show, but he used the opportunity to change the way we talk to kids and taught a great message of quiet kindness and showed people how to listen to children. He wasn’t entertainment, he was a teacher using puppets and his authentic self to show kids how to love and accept others.

His mother made sweaters to give to charity and for the war effort. Every sweater he wore on his show was a sweater knit by his mother’s hands—300 sweaters total. He was a vegetarian because he didn't want to eat "something that had a mother."
Now that I know about this extraordinary, humble, and kind man who was the same person off camera as he was on, I am going to incorporate his ideals into my own life as much as I can. I know I can never measure up to his standards, but I want to work on it.

Did you grow up with Mister Rogers? What did you think of him? Did you change in any way from his influence?
Diverse stories filled with heart