Reflections on kindness and compassion from everyone’s favorite neighbor.
After the Manchester, England bombings, you might have seen a quote from Mr. Rogers being shared around the internet: “My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” Unlike many internet memes, this one is actually attributed correctly to Fred Rogers—parents can even find a guide to dealing with tragic events with their children on The Fred Rogers Company website.
This meme sparked reflection on the unparalleled wisdom that came from the beloved television host Mr. Fred McFeely Rogers. Whether it was a chance in-person meeting before he passed away in 2003, or scenes from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood that just stuck with us—it seemed everyone had a story to tell. In fact, one writer Anthony Breznican, tweeted out his story about meeting him in an elevator and receiving an incredible amount of comfort and compassion from Rogers, a stranger suddenly turned dear friend. He later expanded his story for Entertainment Weekly, where he works as an editor.
In honor of Mr. Rogers’ ability to help us through the difficult times, even after his death, we’ve compiled some of our favorite life lessons we’ve learned from our favorite cardigan-sporting neighbor.
The way he would take his time to change his outfit, and the calm, slow, and eloquent manner in which he spoke are things that always stuck out for me. He would always stop to enjoy the small moments and I always made note of that and would try my hardest to approach things in that way. —Muzam Agha, Contributing Photo Editor
Make Tidying Up a Priority
Mr. Rogers taught me that I should hang up my jacket and put my shoes in the closet as soon as I get home. Forty plus years later, I’m still trying to put this into regular practice. Sometimes I’m successful. —Brenda Dargan-Levy, Digital Managing Editor
Small Gestures Can Have a Huge Impact on Others
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which also happens to have been the home of Mr. Fred Rogers, as well as the set for his wonderful TV show (at the WQED Pittsburgh studios). We even shared a real-life mailman, who, though not the fabled Mr. McFeely, was just about as magical to my childhood self. My parents would always chat with him if we happened to be at home when he delivered our mail, and there I would be, happily watching Mr. Rogers’ educational show (the only kind I was allowed to watch). One day, around my sixth birthday, our mailman appeared with a special “Speedy Delivery,” a picture of Mr. Rogers, who had autographed it for me as a birthday gift, having been tipped off to his tiny neighbor’s burgeoning fandom by our shared delivery man. Needless to say, it instantly became a prized possession. I have it to this day, a constant reminder of the impact kind gestures can have on others (however small they may seem to you) and a testament to the fact that Mr. Rogers was not just a character on his own show, but, just like our mailman, a good neighbor in real life, too. —Rebecca Daly, Fashion Director
Self-acceptance Can Be Wholly Powerful
I loved the candor of Mr. Rogers on subjects like love and forgiveness. My childhood was filled with fairytale movies where these topics were falsely made to seem easy and grand. Rogers’ show and teachings gently communicated how the real world works in a way that made sense to me. Here’s a favorite quote: “When we love a person, we accept him or her exactly as is: the lovely with the unlovely, the strong with the fearful, the true mixed in with the façade, and of course, the only way we can do it is by accepting ourselves that way.” —Brandi Broxson, Articles Editor
Every Human Is Worth Getting to Know Better
In 1998, Tom Junod profiled Rogers for Esquire in “Can You Say…Hero?” wrote one of the best magazine profiles ever written. It’s filled with heartwarming details, like how Mr. Rogers loved to take pictures of his “new friends” to show his wife, Joanne, and how he kept his weight at exactly 143 pounds for three decades. But the most touching parts of the story show Mr. Rogers’ “unashamed insistence on intimacy.” He wanted to know everyone he met. —Libby Sile, Features Editor