Make it a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
I’m a child of the 70’s. I grew up watching Sesame Street, Captain Kangaroo, Krofft Supershow, and Schoolhouse Rock! But one of my favorite shows – even as an elementary school student – was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. There was something about his calm demeanor and kind smile that made me feel like I was more than a television viewer. I was Mister Rogers’ friend.
I remember when I was in second grade, my parents picked up my brother and me early from school and drove us downtown to a special theater. We were there for a live show of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. I can’t recall much about that exciting day, but I do remember getting to meet Mister Rogers in person as we exited the theater. He stood outside the building greeting all of us as we left. As I walked by, he shook my hand and looked me in the eye as if I were the most important person in the world. He made me feel special.
Mister Rogers is from my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked at our local public television station, WQED. As a child, I didn’t understand the effect this man and his show were having on millions of kids across the country. He was my friend from my town.
It wasn’t until I had children of my own, and we made trips from Nashville to Pittsburgh to visit their grandparents that I began to understand the enormous impact Mister Rogers had on generations of children and families. I proudly introduced my three kids to the Land-of-Make-Believe when we went to the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and to the Trolley when we visited the play space at the local mall. And, of course, we were all delighted to see the statue at Riverfront Park. I recall lingering at the memorial, with memories flooding my mind as I pledged myself to be an advocate for children like Mister Rogers was.
The gift that Mister Rogers and his cast of characters -- X the Owl, King Friday, Lady Elaine, Daniel Tiger, Mr. McFeeley and the others -- offered us was a safe place to be kid. I could use my imagination, explore my feelings, and ask questions without being hushed. I was welcome just as I am.
And isn’t that our goal as caring adults. We want kids to come to us, laughing and crying. We want to provide a safe place for them, as described in attachment theory.
As the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood hits theaters across the U.S. on November 22, 2019, the news and talk shows are flooded with articles and interviews about this simple man who gave his life to help children through the vehicle of arts and media – television, music, and books. Once again, I am challenged and inspired to do all I can to serve. We don’t need to travel around the globe to do missions. We can start by being kind to the person who lives next door.
About the Author
Tamara Fyke is an educator and creative entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator, author, and brand manager for Love In A Big World, which equips K-8 educators with a social-emotional learning (SEL) curriculum that is both research-based and practical, and also provides the supporting resources necessary to empower students to be socially competent, emotionally healthy problem-solvers who discover and maintain a sense of purpose and make a positive difference in the world.
Tamara is editor of Building People: Social & Emotional Learning for Kids, Schools & Communities, a book that brings 12 wide-ranging perspectives on SEL to educators, parents, and leaders. Follow her on Twitter .