Don’t see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” unless you want to change your life for good.

The movie will leave you awestruck at the miracle Fred Rogers was that you missed. Or at least I did.

The movie made me want to be a better person.

My daughter, who is 41, loved “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

She was glued to the show, mesmerized by Daniel Tiger, King Friday and the man in the red cardigan.

Back then, I worried Fred Rogers might be a creep. He was soooo into children and possessed some magical power over my daughter. She didn’t move a muscle or miss an episode.

He did the same routine every show: sing a song, pull on a sweater, change his shoes, feed his fish. Yawn. How could such a boring show captivate kids?

Now I know. And I wish I had watched them all with her.

Fred Rogers was the real deal, a genuine, caring, kind man who loved everyone. The shy, chubby kid with asthma who was bullied and called “Fat Freddy” spoke to children eye to eye, heart to heart.

He was a vegetarian who didn’t drink or smoke and prayed for nearly everyone he met. Fred Rogers died in 2003 at age 74. I hope the movie gives him new life. The world needs the lessons he taught us:

Become the master of your mad.

I had no idea how to manage anger except to duck and hide. In my house, when dad got angry, we got hit. Lesson? Anger hurts, so don’t make anyone angry and don’t ever be angry.

Mr. Rogers sang the solution in, “What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?” He told kids they could bang on the deep end of the piano.

“It does give you a good feeling to know that there’s something that you can do to help you become the master of the mad that you feel, and not have to hurt yourself or anybody else.”

Love people as is.

“To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now,” Mr. Rogers taught. He once said, “How sad it is that we give up on people who are just like us.”

There are no losers, only lessons.

I used to hate losing at anything. Checkers. Chess. Chutes & Ladders. Losing hit that shame button in me, the one we all have, that says, “I’m not worthy. I’m not good enough.”

To Mr. Rogers, being the best loser took talent, too. He would color outside the lines and say, “I’m not very good at it, but it doesn’t matter. It feels good to have made something.”

Friends matter.

My friend, Marty Friedman, is the world’s greatest friend. He could actually teach Mr. Rogers a thing or two. Marty always calls when we’re leaving town to wish us well and always calls us the day we arrive home to welcome us back.

Mr. Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister, lived fully the message from Leviticus 19:18, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

Look for the helpers.

Mr. Rogers guided the country after 9/11 with these words: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ … I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

In a world where you can be anything, be kind.

He offered three ways to ultimate success: “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”

Hang in there.

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”

Name it.

We so often dance around the topics of death, disease and divorce. Kids struggle silently through it, so why not talk about it. “Whatever is mentionable can be more manageable,” Mr. Rogers said.

Be, and be grateful.

When Mr. Rogers accepted his Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, he told the audience, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are.” Try it. I dare you not to cry.

Live joyfully.

Fred Rogers taught us to live joyfully when he sang that bubbly tune, “It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive.”

Yes, it is.


Read Regina Brett online at cjn.org/regina. Connect with her on Facebook at ReginaBrettFans. 2019 Ohio SPJ Best Columnist.

Disclaimer

Letters, commentaries and opinions appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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