Tuesday, February 11, 2020

3 Lessons from the Life of Fred Rogers and "It's a Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood"

This past weekend I watched the movie It's a Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood for the second time. Like many educators, I'm a big fan of Fred Rogers. I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. I'm grateful for the impact he had on so many during his lifetime.

While there are countless lessons from his life and from the movie, I wanted to share three things that really stood out to me.

1. "I don't think anybody can grow unless he really is accepted exactly how he is." Fred Rogers

Mr. Rogers loved people. He understood children. He remembered what childhood was like, the good things and the hard things too. He meets them where they are. He is accepting of others. And as a result, he had a tremendous impact on generations of children. All of us as educators should be reminded to accept our students where they are. 

2. When the journalist Lloyd Vogul is introduced to Joanne Rogers, he asks, "How does it feel to be married to a living saint?"

"You know I'm not fond of that term. If you think of him as a saint then his way of being is unattainable," she replies.

"He works at it all the time. It's a practice. He's not a perfect person. He has a temper. He chooses how he responds to that anger."

"It must take a lot of effort," Lloyd said.

"He does things every day that help to ground him. He reads scripture. Swims laps. Prays for people by name. Writes letters, hundreds of them. He's been doing that since I met him."

Developing strength of character is not an accident. It takes intentional effort. It takes practice. Mr. Rogers had a specific routine for strengthening his character. How are you developing your own character and leadership?

3. Fred responds to Lloyd's pointed comment, "Thank you for sharing that perspective."

"I can't imagine it was easy growing up with you as a father," Lloyd admonished.

"Until recently, my oldest never told people about me. He's very private. And that's okay. And my youngest son he genuinely tested me but eventually we found our way and now I'm very proud of both of them. But you are right Lloyd. It couldn't have been easy on them."

And then after he pauses for a moment, Fred continues, "Thank you. Thank you for that perspective."

Fred Rogers is able to acknowledge and even accept the struggles and shortcomings of his own relationships with his sons. That's something Lloyd had failed to come to terms with in his relationship with his own father.

When Lloyd expresses a hard truth of what Fred's sons might have experienced, Fred responds with openness and curiosity. He responds as if this is a valuable insight and not something hurtful or unfair. 

Fred's response causes me to reflect. How can I listen without judgment? When would be a time I might say, "Thank you for sharing that perspective"?

Read More: How Mr. Rogers reminds me of my purpose as an educator and father by Sean Gaillard

Have you seen the movie, "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"? What did you think? Did you like it? I want to hear from you. Leave a comment below or respond on Facebook or Twitter.

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