I recently saw the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It wasn’t a movie I’d typically see. If a flick doesn’t have a ghost or something, otherwise, creepy going on, I’m not always game. But it was the one movie my friends and I all agreed on. Plus, as a child of the 1970’s I was well-acquainted with Mister Rogers. He typically aired somewhere in the midst of Sesamee Street, Zoom, and The Electric Company in the PBS lineup.
While I loved the trolley, the puppets, and all things to do with the Land of Make-Believe, I simply did not get Mister Rogers. Even as a little kid, I thought, What’s with this dude? He said, and often sang, things like You are special just the way you are, It’s You I like, and the ever-famous Won’t you be my neighbor. He looked right into the camera and spoke to me as if I was the only person in the world, but I didn’t have time for this goody-two-shoes with his nerdy soft-soles and cardigan sweaters.
I was not a happy child. I was sad, angry, and felt very misunderstood. I found solace in my cocker spaniel/terrier mix, the swing in my grandma’s backyard, my ever-present daydreams, and little else. The world was lonely and scary and I thought people didn’t want me around much.
I thought kindness was scarce and adults just didn’t seem to act with the attentiveness and gentleness of Mister Rogers. I simply didn’t understand his ways, seeing him as alien as that little green martian, Gazoo, from the Flintstones.
The truth is when Mister Rogers said all those kind words, I never thought he was really speaking to me. I figured he must be talking to some other kid – some boy or girl my age who really was special, someone else who really did make the day beautiful.
But all these years later, as Mister Rogers reemerges as a positive force, I could see I may have been exactly the kind of kid he was speaking to. The kind of kid he’d dedicated his career to trying to reach. I regret I wouldn’t—couldn’t soak up those kindhearted tidbits he’d shared during my single-digit years. I wish I could’ve believed I was special and worthy of being liked and all those other things he’d told me from the screen of my parents snowy Zenith. Perhaps childhood would’ve been just a little bit brighter.
Then again, in my fifty years, I’ve learned it’s never too late to let the goodness of humanity sink in. I now see kindness is not in short supply and the world can be a pleasant place to be. As the spirit of Mister of Rogers makes a comeback I can now see it truly is a beautiful day!
Posted in: Essays