Sunday, December 9, 2012

Mr. Rogers: the original Google

My first job was as a babysitter. In fact, it provided my main income from age 12 until college. I received calls to babysit from many families but had a couple of regular favorites. One job involved watching the younger children of my sister's Brownie leaders one afternoon a week.

The kids mostly played outside, riding bikes on the driveway or running through the woods. But on cold, rainy days we stayed indoors. It was around that time that Mr. Rogers came on the scene. You probably know the show: Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Mr. Rogers opened the show by stopping by his television house, tying on his tennis shoes and exchanging a sport coat for a cardigan sweater, all the while singing:

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood,
a beautiful day for a neighbor,
won't you be mine, could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?

As a 15-year-old, I found Mr. Rogers kind of annoying. His songs were awful and he didn't act like any grown men I knew. He talked to puppets and his best friend was the odd delivery man, Mr. McFeely. "Speedy delivery!" But the kids seemed mesmerized by all that went on in the neighborhood.

Fifteen years later, I changed my tune completely when I had pre-schoolers. While dinner cooked, we'd snuggle on the couch on snowy afternoons and enter Mr. Rogers' world.

It was then I saw Fred Rogers in a new light. An ordained minister, he was a kind, gentle man who cared less about entertaining children and more about showing them that they matter, that their feelings are valid, and they don't need to do anything to prove their worth. He showed that small children need parents who listen and accept them. Mr. Rogers loved life and those around him and always joined in a new project in the neighborhood.

Mr. Rogers, I believe, is the original Google. Ever curious, he found out how things worked or were made. I remember his trip to the Crayola crayon factory to see crayons being made. He once visited an underground mushroom farm, a shoe factory, and all sorts of others. He watched carefully and asked the questions a child might ask. He taught my boys and me so much, without ever using a computer.

Fred Rogers was a delightful man who quietly encouraged and taught two generations of children. I hope he's still influencing parents and children on snowy afternoons

1 comment:

-d said...

One of my favorite childhood memories was coming home after school and lying on the couch watching Mr. Rogers. He was special.