Tom Hanks stars in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, but the movie isn’t about Mr. Rogers.
The movie is inspired by a 1998 article written by journalist Tom Junod. Hollywood created a fiction of the journalist, so the character in the movie is Lloyd Vogel.
It’s a shame, because the original article would have made for a better movie. Over the years, Junod and Rogers became actual friends. That, too is a better story than the movie.
The entire life of Lloyd Vogel is invented to create conflicts where none existed in the life of Tom Junod. But Tom Junod’s personal transformation because of Fred Rogers was miraculous and would have been a far better movie.
The movie ignored the fact Rogers’ Christian faith helped give him such a loving heart and peaceful personality.
Rogers prayed a lot, and he talked about praying even more — it was a core part of who he was. His prayer life was mentioned in the movie, but its importance was minimized. If there was any mention that Rogers was an ordained minister with a Master of Divinity, I missed it.
To truly understand who Fred Rogers was, look for the 2018 documentary, Won’t You be My Neighbor?, the highest grossing documentary biography in history.
Mr. Rogers made us feel good about ourselves, because he recognized the divine spark of God within each one of us.
In his kindness, he taught us how to be kind. But his kindness didn’t come easy.
In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Joanne Rogers tells the reporter that her husband is not a saint. He works hard at his way of being.
In nearly a Christian monastic way, He was disciplined in mind, body, and spirit. He didn’t watch television, he swam daily, and he prayed, read scripture, and wrote letters early each day. He worked hard to be close to God, and it naturally drew people to him.
Mr. Rogers was extraordinary. But when we put people like Mr. Rogers on pedestals of admiration, we make them separate and make their examples seem unreachable. In fact, Rogers remains a role model, a way of being to strive towards. The peace and happiness of Mr. Rogers is obtainable.
Each of us has the potential to be like Fred Rogers. We all can grow closer to God, but like Rogers, we must work at it, every day. Each of us is capable of recognizing the divine spark in others and making them feel good.
It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
All we need to do is recognize the beauty, and hold on to it.
When we strive to be completely present in the presence of others, we invite the presence of God into the encounter.
When we remain joyful with the love of God in nearly every moment, we express and experience the love of God in the moment and we share that moment with others.
This lesson is the legacy of Fred Rogers.