Over the past year or so, there has been a surprising infatuation over Fred Rogers, the beloved character from the show Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Books, movies, documentaries, podcasts… he’s been everywhere. And why? Because he left a mark on the world like few ever have. And it has left many people begging to answer the question, “Why?
In addition to enjoying his show as a child, I’ve personally enjoyed getting to experience a behind-the-scenes look at Fred Rogers’ life in recent months. And as I’ve watched and listened from many different angles, here are 5 simple yet powerful takeaways from both his show and his life:
Mr. Rogers understood the power of feelings.
How did a quiet old guy who had very little enthusiasm and no flamboyance whatsoever capture the hearts and minds of an entire generation of children unlike any other? He connected with their feelings. He helped kids feel comfortable in their own skin by giving them ways to express what they felt. Mr. Rogers intentionally and creatively found ways to relate to children through empathy and casual conversation. He talked to kids like they were people, and friends, not kids. He felt their hurts, verbalized their feelings, and believed the principle that how you feel affects how you heal.
Mr. Rogers prioritized the value of life.
Mr. Rogers had a subtle way of incorporating various people and characters, some with disabilities, and others who were people of color, onto his show. And it was all very intentional. One of his most famous scenes was when he shared water in a kiddie pool to wash his feet with the friendly neighborhood policeman, a black man, Officer Clemmons. This was at the height of cultural and racial tension when blacks were prevented from swimming with whites. Mr. Rogers had a unique way of showing children and the world that all life is the beautiful handiwork of God. Some of his most famous words were “I like you just the way you are.”
Mr. Rogers was genuinely concerned about people.
Many would have never known it apart from the many recent accounts of his life, but Mr. Rogers made an everyday impact in the lives of hundreds and thousands of adults and children around the world. No, not through his show, but through intentional acts of personal kindness shown to individuals in need. He would take the time to write hand-written letters to the thousands of kids who sent him mail. And he would personally visit many children who had struggles and needs, sometimes even flying across oceans just to be present for them. Mr. Rogers had a unique pureness of genuine concern that could be felt.
Mr. Rogers chose to be a helper for the hurting.
Another of his famous phrases was this, “When people are hurting, look for the helpers. You can always find the helpers.” Mr. Rogers genuinely hurt for people who were in pain. Much of that was because he had a lot of pain in his own past that he had learned how to personally deal with. When bad things happened in the world, he found ways to address them on his show to help kids know how to handle their hurts. He was known to address topics like death, divorce, suicide, and war on his children’s show. And he did it in such a simple and effective way that even the youngest of viewers could relate to it and understand.
Mr. Rogers operated out of a Biblical worldview.
One of the most significant takeaways from the life of Mr. Rogers that many people may not know is that he was actually an ordained minister who operated his show out of a desire to please Christ. He went to college to be a pastor but decided instead to enter the then-new children’s television industry because he saw how great the potential was to make an impact on so many young lives. And he did so for 31 years. Many of those who have recently documented his life have praised him for the ‘good person’ that he was, but most have missed the motivation behind all that he did – his relationship with Christ and desire to help others experience God’s love through him.
Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for the legacy you left and the difference you made!
This article originally appeared here.