Please Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Today, March 20th, is the late Mr. Rogers’ birthday.  If you’ve never had Mr. Rogers introduce you to his friends as his “television neighbor,” then you’ve seriously missed out.  Apparently a whole generation of kids will be missing out as PBS has severely cut airing time for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  In Tuesday’s New York Times, it was mentioned that PBS no longer airs Mr. Rogers on a daily basis.  Member stations now air the program once a week, if that.

Once a week?! I used to watch Mr. Rogers twice daily; once after morning kindergarten and once after my afternoon nap.  With the show now airing once a week, today’s kids just won’t get to know Mr. Rogers.  They will be missing out on the much-needed daily dose of the Mr. Rogers experience.  I can’t even fathom what that must feel like.

Every child needs to hear from a young age from the mouth of a television role model that they are liked just the way they are.  I don’t think kids hear that enough and Hannah Montana  isn’t exactly delivering that sort of message.

In honor of the greatest neighbor in town, here’s a look at some of the lessons learned from Mr. Rogers.

1) You’ve made this day a special day, by just being yourself. Mr. Rogers made sure he mentioned that every single episode. So reaffirming.  Mr. Rogers had a way of making his audience feel unique and deserving of a good life and had countless songs that drove the point home.

2) By finding common ground with people, you can relate to anyone; even a tiger that lives in a clock.  Mr. Rogers sought to find commonalities of experience among all of the people he came in contact with. In addition, Rogers and his neighbors kept some pretty eccentric company; Cornflake Especially, King Friday, Lady Elaine Fairchild, and the Platypus family come to mind.

3) It’s okay to be in a bad mood and think evil thoughts. Mr. Rogers sang a song called “Scary Mad Wishes” about how he wished a dragon would burn his dad’s store because he felt his dad was ignoring him.  He owned his evil thoughts, showing us that thinking mean thoughts is a good way to blow off steam.  Who can forget King Friday’s often scary demeanor?! Lots of neighbors in the Neighborhood of Make Believe were terrified of him, but he was the most revered figure.

4) Bad things happen to good people. Prince Tuesday had major meltdowns, Daniel Striped Tiger got pretty emotional and scared, Henrietta Pussycat’s house was on fire once, Lady Elaine Fairchild plotted evil revenge against her neighbors, Queen Sarah fell off the Eiffel Tower, and someone once steal Daniel Striped Tiger’s clock house.  However, they all managed to make it through.

5) Change out of your work clothes when you get home.  It’ll be fun! I’ll admit, I used to throw my shoes over my head when I came home after school.

6) Ride your bike whenever possible. Mr McFeely, the Speedy Delivery man, always delivered his packages on his bike. In record time!

7) Love music. Music was an integral part of Mr. Roger’s neighborhood, beyond the obvious songs he sang regularly. His neighbor, Francois Clemens, was a singer, and Mr. Rogers made frequent visits to Joe Negri’s music shop.  In fact, Yo-Yo Ma performed there once.

8 ) Appreciate your hard-working neighbors. Mr. Rogers celebrated the professions of his neighbors by taking the audience on trips around the city, highlighting the work that people did. We met artists, chefs, musicians, fix-it men, people who made robots, and other factory workers.  These visits instilled a deep appreciation for the working person.

9) It’s necessary to visit the Neighborhood of Make Believe once a day. We all need time to space out and enjoy a world of our own creation.

And how ’bout that Picture, Picture?! What a contraption!  One moment it was a painting, the next it projected an insightful video on how crayons were made at the factory. Mr. McFeely would always pop by with the latest hit video and bam, Picture,Picture delivered!  Also, do you know anyone that has a traffic light in their living room? Another reason Mr. Rogers was in a league of his own.

It’s a travesty that Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood will no longer be a staple of today’s children’s television programing. In 1969, Fred Rogers defended funding PBS to the Senate, citing the fact that he was scared about how children of that era were bombarded with low quality television.  It’s alarmingly still relevant today.

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