This week something profound happened. In between conference calls and inbox-clearing, I carved out a few hours to watch Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Mister Rogers documentary that everyone can’t stop talking about. Now I can’t stop talking about it either, and I couldn’t help but want to share it with you.
As a child, I watched Mister Rogers religiously. Weekend mornings, I sat down with Fred Rogers and allowing myself to be transported by little red trolley into a fantasy land replete with Purple Planet People, King Friday the 13th, and his alter ego Daniel the striped tiger puppet. At the time, I knew it was soothing, transportive, educational. I knew I felt understood by a surrogate parent of sorts. But I didn’t understand from a grown-up perspective how unique his ability was to connect with and explain difficult topics to children.
Watching him on the silver screen as an adult, I was absolutely bowled over by his unabashed and pure kindness, which stands in such stark contrast to the coarse, vindictive nature of the news and social media today. Fred Rogers was steady, humble, and thoughtful—and at once disarming and comforting. I was instantly feeling all the feels.
The documentary wasn’t just an emotional experience: it was a cerebral one. I got a much better understanding of (and appreciation for!) the effect he had on generations of children. On air from 1968 to 2001, Fred McFeely Rogers educated and comforted legions of children through world events ranging from the death of Bobby Kennedy to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. His moral compass, integrity, decency, and desire to steer children towards the greater good was unwavering.
At the end of it all, Mister Rogers has one last gift for us: He asks his audience to take a moment of gratitude, and to thank someone special who has helped them along their journey in life. The legacy of this movie isn’t just admiration for an exceptional human being, but introspection. I now find myself asking, “How can I live a purposeful life?” And “What would Mister Rogers do?”
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t just another night at the movies. It was an experience that hit home, because these principles of gratitude, love, respect, and kindness are ones that I’ve literally built a business around. At its core, Love Is Project is about building a gratitude practice, and taking the time to recognize the people most important to you in your life, whom you love, and who love you back unconditionally. We’re all a part of life’s journey, walking down personal paths filled with struggles, yes, but also abundant joy.
I believe in karmic energy, and that your state of mind impacts not only you but the people around you. The energy that you expend in this world will thread its way through other people and other actions, increasing in impact along the way, and eventually finding their way back to you. If there’s one message Fred Rogers and I both want you to walk away with, it’s that you should always love yourself, and treat others like your neighbor.
Have you seen Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I can’t wait to see this Fred Rogers biopic next fall (it stars Tom Hanks!)
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