Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Is A Valentine

Fred Rogers’ ministry was children’s television.

We went to see “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” at the wonderful Living Room Theatre at FAU. It was terrific.

The documentary on the life and legacy of Fred Rogers explores the timeless charm of Mr. Rogers who for more than 30 years entertained and educated children on PBS.
When the film ended, you could hear sniffles from the sold out audience.  Mr. Rogers still resonates.
In fact, he may resonate now more than ever.

When I looked around I saw a lot of senior citizens in the crowd..maybe their children or grandchildren watched Mr. Rogers or maybe they did too.  Regardless of their age, they were really moved by the story of a man who decided that his ministry would be children’s television.

Mr. Rogers kindness, authenticity and simple message of love seems so rare and unique these days that watching it onscreen is deeply moving.

There’s a longing in our society these days, a missing element and Fred Rogers epitomizes that void.

As a result, there’s a certain melancholy in the documentary. And I’m not sure  it’s intended.
But there’s a sense that with the passing of Mr. Rogers in 2003, that an era has passed in America that cannot be recaptured.
It was an era of community, tight knit and supportive neighborhoods, acceptance and love.

Sure, everything looks better in hindsight. And Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood took place in pretty tumultuous times. The documentary covers how his show dealt with subjects such as assassination, war, race and 9/11 which took place a month after he retired. PBS brought him back to address the horrors of terrorism.
Still, there was also an innocence to the neighborhood—there was love and acceptance.

The melancholy was the unspoken thread that somehow something has been lost in the intervening years.

The film concludes by asking the audience to think of someone special in their lives; someone who helped you in your life’s journey.
And that’s probably the source of the sniffles I heard in Boca.

If we are fortunate, we’ve all had that special someone or multiple helpers in our lives.
Remembering them is important. Honoring them is also important by being there for others in your “neighborhood.”

Fred Rogers’ message was one of love and understanding.
It’s a timeless message of kindness. It will never go out of style and it’s needed now more than ever.
Mr. Rogers widow believes her husband would have been devoted to healing our nation’s divisions. He would have tried to find a way to bring people together.
To me, that’s the essence of leadership. It’s also the essence of humanity and what we are all called to do.

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