Won't You Be My Neighbor

"There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind."

"Love is at the root of everything, love or the lack of it."

Fred Rodgers

The movie "Won't you be my neighbor?" was a stunning documentary released last year. This year saw the dramatized version of Mr. Rodgers's life with Tom Hanks, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," which was another exceptional movie. Last year the biography “The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers" came out, which I am just starting to read. Many people are enthralled with Mr. Rodgers right now it appears. And perhaps it is easy to see why. In America right now, the reality of our schisms are constantly being thrust in our faces. We are learning the hard way that people just aren't very talented, on the whole, at dealing with the religious and philosophical differences between them. And so, many people are pining for a Mr. Rodgers in their lives right now. Someone who holds at bay their own inner turmoil, in order to kindly and compassionately deal with theirs, is what so many crave. A physical, non-mystical, loving parent or caretaker for those who never had one, or a strong friend (neighbor) with an unerringly kind heart for the rest... Too often when we research the lives of past people who have been held up as heroes we find that they had more than just feet made out of clay. This is one of the most fun aspects of history for many middle and high school students. They love to learn that Washington, Edison, or Newton had serious issues and weren't all that nice. This attitude is pervasive within society as a whole right now. We are so quick to pounce and tear at the first signs of a crack in the image of anyone believed to be good. But that's why Mr. Rodgers has become such a topic of conversation now. For once there appears to be someone who just can't be dragged down. The rumors about him turn out to be false. He really did simply put others, not just children, before himself, day after day after day. And by sacrificing himself in that way he gave so many something they are desparate for right now: an actual hero. A soft-spoken, truly kind hero.