On February 19, 2018, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” turned fifty years old. In order to recognize this momentous occasion, the Fred Rogers Company has been celebrating Mister Rogers’ memory by inviting viewers to share the myriad ways in which this gentle TV personality touched their lives.
Mister Rogers is renowned for being the same kind, soft-spoken, thoughtful person in real life as he was on screen, and just about everyone who grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” has wonderful memories of the things he taught us about being a good person.
Mister Rogers may have died in 2003, but his memory clearly lives on in the hearts and souls of his fans.
1. The importance of feeding the fish.
In his book, “Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain In Your neighborhood?,” Mister Rogers shared a story about a little five year-old girl named Katie who wrote to him to inquire about the fish he kept in a tank on the set of his show. Katie’s dad explained that the girl is blind, so she would cry whenever Mister Rogers didn’t mention feeding the fish.
After reading Katie’s letter, Mister Rogers was sure to say out loud that he was feeding the fish, so she wouldn’t worry.
2. He practiced and taught acceptance.
“When Mr. Rogers said goodbye at the end of each episode, tears would stream down my face. I was a lonely child who was bullied, and who kept a great deal of pain on the inside. I felt as if Mr. Rogers was the only person who liked me and accepted me just as I was. I never met him, but he is one of the most precious friends I have ever had.”
3. He provided an interlude of peace and solace in many children’s’ lives.
“Fred Rogers himself was the best thing about the show. In 1976 my mother married my stepfather and my 8 year old life went from a peaceful, secure, loving environment living with my grandparents, to a chaotic, unbalanced, sometimes violent existence.
My mom made a choice that she thought would give us a better life, but it turned out to be opposite. I would get home from school and head straight for the tv, which was showing the last half of sesame street. I knew my stepfather wouldn’t be home for another hour and so I had the tv to myself. I would make sure I had everything I needed, snack, drink, favorite stuffed doll. Then I was ready. The following 30 minutes was the most peaceful secure minutes in my whole day.
Mr Rogers came in singing, and all my cares disappeared. I loved everything about that show, but I especially loved Mr. Rogers, the way he talked, the unhurried pace at which he did everything, he was the calm in my stormy life. I still consider him the father I never had, and when he passed I mourned him as such. I will forever be grateful that he was there in that difficult time for me. I credit him with helping me to know that what I was living was not what life had to be like all the time. He is truly my hero.”
4. He was a role model.
“Fred Rogers was the only truly positive male role model I had in my formative years. I’m glad he was there for me and for all of us.”
5. He helped raise countless young people.
“I was heavily neglected when I was a child, just put in front of the television. Mr Rogers raised me and made me feel and still makes me feel I’m special and a human being.”
6. He never made fun of anyone for being afraid.
When my oldest daughter was about 2… Whenever she had a bath, when I took the tub plug out she would scream and fight to get away and run as far as she could to get away from the tub.
One day Mr. Rogers had on his swimsuit and got in a bathtub… Know that she watched him everyday and LOVED him… He put water in tub and talked to kids about how no one could go down the drain. He let water out and watched the water drain… Just sitting in tub.
She turned and looked at me and took my hand to lead me to tub. She wanted me to put water in it, so I did. Then she took plug out and just watched. And that was it. From that day on she loved her baths and always was the one that removed the plug. THANK YOU MR. ROGERS!
7. He connected with everyone.
“When he spoke to the camera it was as though I was the only one he was talking to. We had an interactive conversation, he listened and understood how I felt. He gave advice on how to deal with things that worried me or frustrated me. I felt safe and connected with him on a personal level. When they announced his death on the news I just sat down and cried because I had lost a friend. #myhero
8. He taught kids how to react when things don’t go as planned.
“I still remember how upset he was in Episode 1485 when the flashlight and spray bottle didn’t produce a rainbow. Rewatching it now with my daughter, it’s amazing how comforting Fred still is. Having a human being radiate such kindness and speaking to children on their level and be so reassuring while not having an ounce of seeming condescending is something that children’s programming sorely lacks these days. He is truly missed.”
9. He personally replied to the letters kids sent him.
Many people have stories of Mister Rogers personally writing to their children!
“In 1972, my two young children “wrote” (dictated to me) letters to their friend, Mr. Rogers, about moving to a new house. They were thrilled when they received personal notes back from Mr. Rogers that responded to what they had written, and the drawings they had also sent! So classy!
10. He helped children of immigrants learn to speak English.
NPR shared a story of Emmy Beltre, a graphic designer for public radio whose family immigrated from the Dominican Republic. She says Mister Rogers’ slow, deliberate manner of speaking helped her learn the language better than anyone else could have.
“I was 1st generation born, no one spoke English. I learned from Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers was one of a kind! Thank you for all the lessons!”
11. He was everybody’s friend.
A woman named Beth shared a story of how Mister Rogers helped her get through a very difficult period in her life. He even secretly called her and came to visit her in the hospital after she’d had major surgery. You can read more about Beth’s emotional story here.
These stories are further proof that kindness and compassion leave behind a legacy that lasts far beyond our lifespan. Thank you, Fred Rogers, for being a light in an often all-too-dark world.
Please share these stories to shine the light even brighter.