Given the darkness of my work and my general worldview, it might surprise you that I have a great fondness for Fred Rogers, the Mister Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I think that he’s probably the kindest person who ever lived in my lifetime and the most worthy of emulation. I still watch episodes of his show when TiVo records them because I like to be reminded that there are good, decent people in this world. Well, one less now that Fred Rogers is gone.
A few years back, in a previous iteration of this blog, I wrote about Amy Hollingsworth’s The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers. I highly recommend that book to anyone who wants to better understand what made Fred Rogers a truly great man. You should click through and buy it right now, and not just because I get a few cents from the deal.
Anyway, the blog post prompted Amy Hollingsworth herself to write me at a time when I was in great physical and mental pain thanks to a major surgery I’d undergone. She and I discussed Fred Rogers over the course of a few emails and I told her about a dream I’d had — a particularly real, vivid dream — in which I met Mister Rogers and he told me to be a better person. In the dream he was much younger than he’d been even when I watched him on TV in the ’70s, but he said to me, “But I still have the same eyes.” Amy said this was remarkably close to something he’d told her himself. Amazing, but also a little spooky.
If I had full control over myself, which I clearly don’t, I would be the better person Fred Rogers wanted me to be. Even if the dream was just a dream and even though Mister Rogers never met me, he really did want me to be a better person. He wanted all of us to be better people, because being a better person by extension makes the world a more worthwhile place in which to live. I don’t think there’s a single person out there who ever met Fred Rogers and wasn’t profoundly affected by his goodness. We should all aspire to that state of being.
I’ve said before that I’m an easy crier when it comes to television and movies and whatnot, and I doubt that will ever change. Rare is the time when I watch Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that I don’t end up in tears because of some song he sang. I am not ashamed to say it. Nor am I ashamed to say that John D. Boswell’s remix/Auto-Tune of Mister Rogers also brought on the waterworks. When Fred Rogers was right about something, he was very right, and it’s true that you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. With the right kind of care, those ideas can grow into wonderful things, and the world needs more wonderful things.
So go ahead and make fun of me for loving Fred Rogers like he was a blood relation. I’m used to that by now.