Sunday, January 31, 2016

Six life lessons from Mr. Rogers

The other day the "ending" song of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood popped into my head.  It must be because Juliette watches a cartoon made by PBS which uses the same melody (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood).  And even after all these years, the lines seemed to come back to me so clearly (give or take a few words).  

It's such a good feeling
To know you're alive.
It's such a happy feeling:
You're growing inside.
And when you wake up ready to say,
"I think I'll make a snappy new day."
It's such a good feeling,
A very good feeling,
The feeling you know
You're alive.


And I realized that even at nearly 42 years old, these words ring very true and are frankly a good mantra.  It seems I am not the only one out there who is inspired by old Fred either.  Other bloggers have been inspired by him, too.

Say what you will about his obsession with cardigans and the 70s home decorations, Mr. Rogers was ahead of his time.  And he had a lot to teach us.

1.     We really are lucky to be alive.  These are the first lines of the song above and excellent ones to remember at any age.  We need only watch the nightly news to realize we are the lucky ones today.  We’ve got a roof over our heads (even if it is a rental), we’re healthy and absolutely spoiled compared to most of the world’s population.  How revolutionary that this simple message of counting your blessings was being sent out to young children by his show.  

2.     Keep work and home separate.  You know how he always took off his work jacket for one of his cardigans?  Then he took off his street shoes for his Keds.  By these simple acts, Mr. Rogers is shedding his work persona and getting cozy at home.  Today it’s increasingly difficult to keep work out of our home lives, with emails and texts which can arrive or be answered at any hour.  We should take a page from Fred’s book on this one.  Plus, cardigans ARE cool.

3.     Your imagination is vital.  I loved when Mr. Rogers went to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe to make the voices for King Friday and Henrietta Pussycat.  How cool was that to have a trolley in your living room that went to an imaginary world!  He reminded kids how essential imaginary play is.  I still value imaginary play today, with my daughter, and sometimes I use visualization exercises to calm myself as I go to sleep or get out of a funk.  By this focus on the imaginary, he was also encouraging creativity.  In our world of ready-made apps and games for kids, let us not forget a healthy dose of imagination.

4.    Talking about your feelings is key.  In some versions of the ending song, Mr. Rogers says something to the extent of “you’ll have things you’ll want to talk about/I will, too.”  But he also says we can choose to share our feelings, or not.  It’s still an important message today for us all.  Talking it out, sharing our emotions is the only way to hash things out.  He also reminds us simply that it’s ok to have feelings, that those feelings are our own.  

5.     Neighbors and friends make the world a better place. In the beginning theme song he says “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood” and “won’t you be mine, could you be mine, won’t you be my neighbor?”  We need neighbors and friends like we need oxygen.  Without our circle of people and connections, we’d be lonely and down.  People with more friends and social contacts live longer, too.  Communication and sharing experiences helps kids and adults build a fuller life.  I know friend time sure helps me get through those tough moments.

6.     It’s in our hands to make it a “snappy new day”.  I like this idea of a snappy new day.  It sounds optimistic and fun.  It also sounds like I can snap out of a bad mood and it’s my choice.  That is a powerful message for anyone.  It’s about waking up with hope that today will be a good day and that we are the authors of our days.  

So as the winter doldrums set in, let’s make tomorrow a snappy one and hold friends and neighbors close to our hearts!  And don’t forget your cardigan.


I Say Oui said...

I watched "Mister Rogers" regularly as a kid. A few years ago, I watched it as an adult for the first time, and as you said, I was struck by how appropriate the lessons are for all ages. They're quite profound, actually. The episode I watched was about how nobody owns you. Your parents love you and take care of you, but you are your own person.

Okay, now I want to watch more episodes!

Kaye said...

Love these kind of posts - they really make you rethink and are mind-opening