“Love is at the root of everything,” Mr. Rogers says at the beginning of the documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, “all learning, all relationships— love, or the lack of it. And what we see and hear on the screen is part of who we become.”
The film is an hour and a half celebration of the life of the man who influenced millions of people, and who answered his fan mail with handwritten letters.
An accomplished musician, Mr. Rogers composed the music and special songs on his show, including “It’s You I Like.”
With more than $22 million in ticket sales, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, is the 12th highest grossing documentary in history.
Some critics claim that his universal acceptance of everyone helped to create an atmosphere of entitlement— that his young viewers grew to expect to be accepted as they were, rather than subordinate themselves to the demands of others. His critics are wrong, of course.
Mr. Rogers confronted complex and emotionally challenging subjects like divorce, death, fear, grief, and even 9-11. He helped generations of children grow into emotionally well adjusted adults, and then helped those adults with their children. His viewers are probably better adjusted than their peers who didn’t grow up watching him and fail to see his value as adults.
Occasionally signing correspondence with the Greek word, xáris, which means grace, Mr. Rogers demonstrated grace in his demeanor and in the lessons he taught on television for 30 years.
He was a seminary-trained Presbyterian minister ordained to practice “television ministry.”An interview in the documentary mentions the “holy ground” between Mr. Rogers on television and his audience watching at home.
Throughout the documentary, there are repeated references to Mr. Rogers’ faith as well as the fundamental foundation of his Christianity– the idea that people are endowed by their Creator with good.
The film leads us to believe Fred Rogers was in real life the same way he was on television, going so far as to use the voice of a puppet when speaking sternly to his children.It’s clear in the film that Mr. Rogers didn’t fully understand the impact he had on people and seemed to question his effectiveness. I wonder how he would respond to reports audiences leave theaters in tears, moved by the story of Won’t You Be My Neighbor.
I’ve seen it suggested online that if the Protestants had saints, there would already be a Saint Mr. Rogers.
Imago Dei is a theological term that means we are made in the “image of God.”
Mr. Rogers was the image of God. He incarnated God’s love, forgiveness, acceptance and understanding. When we look at Mr. Rogers, we see in him everything we hope God to be, and everything we ourselves strive to be. We see in Mr. Rogers the best of humanity.
Here are additional examples of God’s love, in the person of Mr. Rogers.
What do you do with the Mad you Feel?
By Fred M. Rogers
What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole wide world seems oh, so wrong…
And nothing you do seems very right?
What do you do? Do you punch a bag?
Do you pound some clay or some dough?
Do you round up friends for a game of tag?
Or see how fast you go?
It’s great to be able to stop
When you’ve planned a thing that’s wrong,
And be able to do something else instead
And think this song:
I can stop when I want to
Can stop when I wish.
I can stop, stop, stop any time.
And what a good feeling to feel like this
And know that the feeling is really mine.
Know that there’s something deep inside
That helps us become what we can.
For a girl can be someday a woman
And a boy can be someday a man.
Kind word turns away wrath. Mr. Rogers testifying before Congress about the importance of sharing feelings.
For a list of books written by Mr. Rogers, videos and other items of interest, click here.