Exposure is Essential.
With the movie Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood in theaters, it is fitting to applaud a man who mirrored unconditional love. Fred Rogers knew exposure to life with its broad spectrum of emotions and the vast knowledge available through arts and commerce was an essential element in the maturing and equipping of children.
Over the summer months, I had the privilege of babysitting my grandson, who, by the way, will be ten this Veteran's Day. One morning, as I was folding clothes while the neighborhood children were playing on the sunporch, I turned on the television to see Tom Hanks sitting in a red sweater with grey hair. I knew who he was supposed to be. I thought to myself, Tom Hanks? Mr. Rogers had seemed kind of goofy to me as a young adult in what I like to call my PJ days (Pre-Jesus). He would step onto the set of Neighborhood while singing a little ditty, walk over to his coat closet while removing his jacket only to replace it with a zip-up sweater (which I later discovered were all made by his mother). He would then go sit on a bench and remove his loafers one at a time while tossing each in the air as he changed into his "tennis" shoes. Real-life stories have always been a passion of mine, so it was a natural step to search for a documentary on the life of Fred Rogers. I found Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood: It's You I Like. I wanted to know the who, what and why of the man Tom Hanks was going to embody.
I soon discovered that Fred knew what it felt like to be teased by children who called him "fatty." He began to play the piano at a young age. He overcame severe shyness and loneliness through what I believe to be a divine encounter in High School (must watch the doc!). He graduated magna cum laude from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, with a degree in music composition. He received a divinity degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary(he was ordained a Presbyterian minister) and attended the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Child Development. Who knew?
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood exposed children to classical music through Yo, Yo Ma (world-class cellist), and Itzhak Perlman (Israeli-American violinist/conductor/teacher). He discussed the subject matter of death, divorce, and fear, which was not the norm in children's programming. Fred exposed human emotions we all possess by telling the world "mistakes are part of learning and sometimes are hard to learn." Through the pretend television "Picture picture," he broadened horizons of children by teaching them how to eat out at a restaurant, showing how companies made erasers, crayons, harmonicas, and musical instruments. On and on, the exposure went. As Mr. Rogers said, "There is so much in this world we learn no matter how old or how young we are."
Exposure is essential for knowledge. Fred Rogers and his story is a remarkable story of love without limits. Discover what I did this past summer. I can almost hear Tony Bennett as he serenades Lady Elaine Fairchild (puppet) on station MGR TV: It's You I Like! Thank you, Fred Rogers, for who you were. You are helping me become a better me.