I just finished a wonderful double dose of Mr. Rogers. I saw the new DVD, MISTER ROGERS & ME, written and directed by Benjamin Wagner, and I read the book, THE SIMPLE FAITH OF MR. ROGERS: SPIRITUAL INSIGHTS FROM THE WORLD'S MOST BELOVED NEIGHBOR, by Amy Hollingsworth. Wow!
Benjamin Wagner, a young MTV producer, met Mr. Rogers on Nantucket. Mr. Rogers made a lasting impression on him, and told him, "The simple and deep, is better than the shallow and complex." This haunted Wagner, and ten years after Mr. Roger's death, Wagner set out to meet others who had been profoundly affected by Mr. Rogers. He interviewed the late Tim Russert, Bo Lazoff, Linda Ellerbee, and Susan Stamberg, among others. All had experienced Mr. Rogers' glow.
Also interviewed was Amy Hollingsworth, a Christian television interviewer, who had formed a deep and lasting spiritual relationship with Mr. Rogers. Her book, THE SIMPLE FAITH, SPRITIUAL INSIGHTS FROM THE WORLD'S MOST BELOVED NEIGHBOR, relates the way Mr. Rogers lived his faith. He had been ordained a Presbyterian minister, and his ministry was through television. In a nutshell, Mr. Rogers, in the words of St. Francis of Assisi, "preached the gospel at all times, and when necessary, used words."
There is synchronicity between the book and movie. Mr. Rogers really believed in the goodness of each individual and he focused with genuine love on all who crossed his path. In his last interview with Ms. Hollingsworth, Mr. Rogers said that the most important thing he would wish to leave people with was the knowledge that "they are loved by the Person who created them, in a unique way. If they could know that and really know it and have that behind their eyes, they could look with those eyes on their neighbor..." In other words, Love thy neighbor as thyself. Something Mr. Rogers lived and breathed. The name of his show, Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, was not chosen by happenstance.
Mr. Rogers is known for his effect on children. Many people contacted Mr. Rogers after they grew up, to tell him he was a lifeline to them. One young man, who was horribly abused as a child, saw Mr. Rogers on TV, which gave him the hope that there were some good adults out there, though Mr. Rogers was the only one he knew. But d0n't underestimate the effect Mr. Rogers had on the adults who watched the show along with their children.
The program modeled how to listen to children and honor their feelings, but it went beyond that. Mr. Rogers spoke to the inner child in each of us. Mr. Rogers talked about our feelings.
There is a palette of feelings and many of us were not allowed to feel them all. Some of us were not allowed to get mad, or sad, and some can't even allow themselves to feel glad. But Mr. Rogers let us know that it's okay to be mad, or sad, and glad. We are unique, and loved just the way we are. These are not just words. I used to watch Mr. Rogers with my two sons. He spoke directly to my inner child and told me what I needed to hear. I'm so glad, nine years after his death, he still is.