Several years ago, I wrote about the fact that Fred Rogers was really the only father figure I ever knew. That post was entitled, “Fred Rogers Was My Father”, and I really meant it. I genuinely believe I wouldn’t have made it to adulthood without Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood.
Recently I went to see a documentary that’s in some theaters called Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I learned even more about this amazing man and what a positive impact he had on the world. He spoke to children about the Vietnam war, and about the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, and about 9/11. He explained divorce and death to us. And most of all, he talked about kindness and decency and the fact that we’re all okay just the way we are. He made us feel safe. That’s all most kids really need, isn’t it?
I’m so glad that he wasn’t alive in 2007 when conservatives tried to blame him for an entire generation’s sense of entitlement. They claimed that because Mr. Rogers told children that they were special, they grew up to be lazy and didn’t feel like they had to work for their achievements. I was outraged. Many people were.
What’s next? Drop kicking puppies into active volcanoes? I mean, seriously. What were they really saying? That it would be better to tell kids that they were worthless, and that they need to man up? Here was a man that gave millions of people the self-esteem to rise up from their dysfunctional circumstances and have emotionally healthy, productive lives, and Fox News and their ilk were attacking that legacy. It was disgusting.
When the lights went up in the theater, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. And when I got to my car, I really let loose. I am just so grateful for all that Fred Rogers did for me. He knew me so well, without even meeting me. And I needed that. So very much.