Slice of Life: What Would Mr. Rogers Do Is the Wrong Question To Ask

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

There’s a moment towards the end of the fantastic new documentary about Fred RogersWon’t You Be My Neighbor? — where a gentleman, Junlei Li, who works at the Fred Rogers Center looks directly at the camera, and says something along the lines of: It’s not what Mr. Rogers would do. That’s not the question we need to be asking. It’s what are you going to do?

The comment comes as the film wrestles with the current climate of incivility, of unkindness, of using media for personal gains by finding and exploiting the faults in others. Fred Rogers saw the world was changing in the years before his death, and he was saddened by it.

Aren’t we all?

Li’s point is that we can’t look to media figures, just as we can’t look to sports icons, to change the world for the better. We have to look to ourselves, and how we treat each other, how we tap into kindness and caring and understanding. It’s heart-breaking that such talk sounds old-fashioned in the current age of a president who acts like a thug on the wires, but it’s true.

We can take care of each other. We need to take care of each other.

My wife and I — and pleasantly surprising us both, our 18-year-old son joined us — got out of the scorching heat yesterday to watch the movie in the theater, and my wife and I were nearly crying at times (not sure about the kid). I didn’t watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a kid, but I know of him, of course, and of his work. To see his journey and his mission, and his impact on kids through the medium of television, is powerful viewing.

There’s another moment in the movie that also stuck with me. Right at the end, all of the people who are being interviewed as given a minute to remember someone who impacted their life in the positive. The camera stays with them, holding their gaze, quietly, as they think and remember, and even cry at the memory.

Let’s remember those people who helped us, and be the people who others might remember, too.

Peace (in the heart),

  1. Kevin, I wrote about the movie and its impact as well. So many things struck me deeply – “Look for the helpers” and being “repairers of the world” – I found myself holding my breath at the profundity of Mr. Rogers. I am especially delighted that your son went also. I think that whoever goes to see the film will come away changed, in some way, for the better … you captured these moments beautifully. Oh, and the cinema attendants handed out packs of tissue to us moviegoers as we entered the auditorium. #foreshadowing

  2. Sounds like a movie I need to make the time to see.

    “We have to look to ourselves, and how we treat each other, how we tap into kindness and caring and understanding.” I keep coming back to the importance of classroom community. I’m so glad I stood my ground and stayed self-contained.

  3. I just read Fran’s post about this film, too. Such good messages that we need to remember, to act upon, and to teach. I think I need to go see this!

  4. This is great. It is really all about what each of us can do. “What can I do?” I have heard great things about the movie and will try to find it nearby.

  5. I can’t wait to see this movie! Thank you for reflecting about it – and reminding me not only that I need to find where I can see the film, but also that I need to be asking “what can I do?”…. and doing it!

  6. Kindness and Empathy Matter! Love Your Neighbor is not a forgotten mantra for many of us. Thanks for reminding us, Kevin.

  7. I wanted to see this when it was at the Seattle Film Festival, but it was sold out by the time I got around to looking for tickets. Glad to know it’s been released now.

    • Love these wise words from your post:
      “Let’s remember those people who helped us, and be the people who others might remember, too.”

  8. I have not yet seen this movie, but I will now after your review. The line…What are you going to do? is an important one in these challenging times. The only person we can change is ourselves…..I think Mr. Rogers said that, too!

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