Fred Rogers, host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” taught children to be kind, brave and to love others. So, why have we forgotten those lessons? 

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood/A beautiful day for a neighbor/Would you be mine?/Could you be mine?” 

Those are the first words children were greeted with when they tuned in to watch “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The wildly popular television show ran from 1969-2001 and was hosted by Fred Rogers; the ultimate neighbor. 

Both on and off camera, Rogers embodied the essence of what being a true neighbor meant: to love and help one another. And he extended this idea of being a good neighbor to his viewers, where his legacy lives on. 

Admittedly, I didn’t grow up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” as I was a bit too young to see the show in its prime. But my older brothers watched it almost religiously as kids, and through their entertainment, I learned about the show and Rogers’ mission to spread kindness and empathy to all. 

And as a child, it was pretty easy to accept Rogers’ message, as I saw the world as nothing more than a giant neighborhood. Everyone was a potential new friend or playmate and all fights could be mended with a sincere “sorry” and hug. But, as I look around at the culture today, the values of a neighbor are more of a rarity. 

People often steer away from interacting with anyone who differs from them, whether it be politically, religiously or based on who they love or how they identify. If they’re different, they’re not worth the time. People now live in fear of those who dare to challenge their beliefs or views and become fearful of what they don’t understand. We are not the people Mr. Rogers encouraged us to become. 

As children, Rogers worked tirelessly to try and develop us into the best versions of ourselves. This included lessons of recognizing and validating our emotions, showing kindness and patience and helping others however we could. Rogers believed in children, which is why he made it his life’s work to teach them how to properly love and care for each other. 

Before I go on, I want to make two things clear: First, I am not saying Rogers was a perfect person. Like all of us, he had his flaws and moments of anger and imperfection. Second, I’m not claiming he has all of the answers when it comes to achieving world peace. We won’t fix the world by binge watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” 

What I am saying, though, is as children, it was easy to believe and carry out Rogers’ version of what the world should be. But with age comes the harsh awakening that the world around us is deeply flawed and, at times, unfairly cruel. So what made us forget what Rogers so dutifully taught? 

In his book “The World According to Mister Rogers,” Rogers says, “It’s very dramatic when two people come together to work something out. It’s easy to take a gun and annihilate your opposition, but what is really exciting to me is to see people with differing views come together and finally respect each other.” 

When faced with an opposing view, Rogers recognized that it’s easier to become defensive and fight back, or to simply turn away and refuse to listen. But that’s not what a neighbor would do. A real neighbor would take time to engage and would try to find a new perspective with a different idea or view. 

That said, there is a distinction that must be made between tolerance and enabling behaviors and thoughts that further oppress others. And even though an issue or problem might have no direct impact on you, it’s our obligation to be a neighbor and help as we can. 

In the same book, Rogers shares that “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

At the end of the day, I believe people want to be more united than divided. But, fighting against injustices and trying to fix every problem the world faces can often feel like an endless, unwinnable battle. 

The issues plaguing and dividing our world are challenging and have deep roots in even more complex ideologies. This can often lead people to wonder where and how to begin mending the world back together. 

This is why one of the best places to start is back in the neighborhood Rogers created so many years ago. A place to become our best, to grow more empathetic, to spend more time listening rather than talking and to show others they are loved. Let’s work to rebuild the neighborhood Rogers laid the foundation for.