It’s nearly 5 AM, so I will aim for neither eloquence or style. I don’t quite remember when I found out about Mr Rogers, quite possibly two years ago, or maybe more. Time seems to be a weird concept, doubly when you’re in the middle of what seems to be a ceaseless pandemic.

I was up, reading statistics and news about the virus (would definitely not recommend that. Wasn’t my first time, won’t be my last). Nothing soothes my anxiety like some freshly baked numbers and research articles that affirm your worst fears. I hate that I do this despite knowing well about my anxiety, but that’s the nature of anxiety; pervasive and enduring, playing both the firestarter and the forest fire that burns down the woods of my sanity. I need to seek information to make sure I’m prepared, but that very information causes more anxiety

I digress, but trying to get back to the topic of today’s ramblings - Mr Rogers. I get distressed A LOT. Sometimes, very few times,(times when I’m not numb because of the bottling up, or the times when I’m not rolled into a tear-spewing ball) I look at work by Mr Rogers. And boy does it help!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with him - He’s probably the nicest well-known person to ever exist. He quells the fiery rage in me, soothes the child in me, and reminds me of the importance of kindness. Cheesy, I know.

Mr Rogers was a TV show host. A kids’ TV show host at that.

”Pfft, why aren’t you over a kids’ TV show host, you’re 21!”

Well… because he wasn’t just any TV show host, he was this Presbyterian minister who didn’t like what was displayed on kids television shows, so he went out to change that.

”Umm. Isn’t shitting on religious conservatives who are offended by innocuous things YOUR THING? Basically, your favourite hobby?” a) That isn’t my favourite hobby, that’s my second favourite one. b) Shame on you for jumping to conclusions and thinking that Christian minister = conservative, and for discarding his ideas just because of his beliefs.

”But, I’m just reading what you wrote! I’m one of your voice-”

Anyway, with all the distractions now gone, let’s get back. Fred Rogers. A man who wanted to do something to change how kids’ programmes were violent, mindless, and provided no value. My initial knee-jerk reaction to this was “OMG, don’t kill the fun!”, but then I saw the things he accomplished. Most notably, Mr Rogers’ Neighborhood. Imagine the coziest, fluffiest, warmest thing you can. That’s Mr Rogers’ Neighbourhood.

I can’t do it justice, so I’ll simply direct you to

And for the lazy ones, here’s an excerpt that does more justice than I did, but still not enough justice - _Over more than 30 years Mister Rogers created a relationship with millions of children, each of whom felt like they were visiting with a trusted friend. Mister Rogers looked directly into the camera and sang and talked to each child watching. His radical kindness, acceptance, and empathy created a place that as TV Guide described: “ makes us, young and old alike, feel safe, cared for and valued… Wherever Mister Rogers is, so is sanctuary.

Wow, so I can’t believe I just spent the entire time JUST trying to introduce Mister Rogers and still butchering it.

But anyway, I adore Mr Rogers. I’ve never been the kind of person to have a role model. (Don’t put people on a pedestal, right?) I never really found anyone who was amazing enough to be role model material, you know? But Mr Rogers? Him I can confidently call my role model.

Why did his work resonate so much with me? Because… Our beliefs were aligned! When I was around 15, I was struck by what I called an epiphany but now call common sense. I came to the (not so) startling conclusion that most “bad behaviour”, as I termed it then, could be traced back to a bad childhood. I postulated that most crimes happen because of fucked up childhoods. Of course, it is more nuanced than that, but it really does hold true to a certain extent. Childhood shapes us. It’s the most important part of our lives, but I feel like we don’t give it enough importance. Kids will be kids. No! They’ll grow up to be ill-functioning caffeine-addicted adults someday!

Mr Rogers understood this. He understood the importance of love and empathy. Of kindness. Of self-acceptance. On his show, he made sure that everyone felt like they had a friend. He extended love.

But that’s not it. It wasn’t just the fact that I shared his view, or the general altruistic feel-goodness that made me connect with Mister Rogers. It was something more personal. He told me things I’ve always wanted to hear. It might sound weird to picture a grown-ass adult crying at Mr Rogers singing “It’s you I like”, but I found out I wasn’t the only one. I introduced it to my then-partner and they did the same. Both of us had a fragmented childhood and it just hit us right in the feels. Do yourself a favour and listen to it.

Look at the lyrics and tell me you didn’t feel a thing -

It’s you I like, It’s not the things you wear, It’s not the way you do your hair— But it’s you I like. The way you are right now, The way down deep inside you— Not the things that hide you, Not your toys— They’re just beside you.

But it’s you I like— Every part of you, Your skin, your eyes, your feelings Whether old or new. I hope that you’ll remember Even when you’re feeling blue That it’s you I like, It’s you yourself, It’s you, it’s you I like.

(It’s okay if the lyrics didn’t do anything to you, Mister Rogers loves you regardless)

Mr Rogers was the father I never had. The friend I never had. But the one all of us need, especially in these bleak times. His show wasn’t just some silly show, the little details that make up the show are just so beautiful; I urge you to explore.

He covered serious issues. From divorce to death and everything in between, Mister Rogers talked about, gently. In a way that a child can understand. He helped them process their feelings. “Whatever is mentionable can be more manageable.” Mr Rogers normalised so many things and made help more accessible.

”He understood that new experiences or changes in routine can feel overwhelming and scary to young children. He showed us what to expect. He reassured us. He prepared us to meet and trust the people who would care for us – the doctor, the dentist, the barber, the teacher.” He’d cover things most people would deem mundane, things most networks would take a hard pass on.

He treated children with respect and saw them as equals; he didn’t patronise them. He actually listened.

The best part? The lessons he taught aren’t exclusively for children. A lot of us could use them too. They’re cathartic, trust me.

I have a large collection of Mister Rogers quotes, but I’ll leave you with these.

“Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.”

”Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

I never thought I’d quote Tommy Wiseau in a post about Fred Rogers, but - “If a lot of people love each other, the world would be a better place to live.” True Tommy, I’m with you on that. If only everyone were more true to their feelings. But maybe we’ll get there! I’ll wind up this needlessly lengthy post that didn’t manage to capture an ounce of the legacy that Mr Rogers has left with a quote that I really love and find comforting.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Look for the helpers. Not to be dramatic, but this phrase sorta reignited my faith in humanity, kinda helped me view everything a bit differently, you know?

Thank you, Fred McFeely Rogers. Thank you for reminding me of the oath I took as a kid. To spread love, respect, and happiness no matter what. I have faltered, I have gone astray, but I am giving it my best.