“I think the best thing we can do is let people know that each one of them is precious.” – Fred Rogers, in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
My husband and I saw A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the new movie starring Tom Hanks, on Sunday afternoon. It was a beautiful day! And it was a lovely movie. It’s a simple, honest, and peaceful film about a simple, honest, peaceful man. I loved it.
The quote above could be a great summary of Mr. Rogers’ life work. That was what he wanted people to know. That’s what we all need to know. Of course, Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister so he knew that God is the one who gives us that precious status. God is the one who gives us dignity and who loved us into being. We are wanted, we are unique, we are beautiful! Fearfully and wonderfully made. Don’t ever forget that.
Mr. Rogers was always grateful and found the smallest things to be thankful for. He also found unusual things to be thankful for. Could you, when someone is angry and lashes out at you, say, “Thank you for being honest with me. I know that must have been hard?” Mr. Rogers could. That is not a scene in the movie, but it’s close to something he said.
It’s disarming when someone does not respond in kind to negative remarks or actions. It’s confusing, too. And it makes the person who is attacking stop and think about what just happened. Taking a moment to ponder a situation just might defuse it. Taking a moment to catch one’s breath, even in disbelief or bewilderment, can be just the thing to get a conversation back on track.
Mr. Rogers also listened a lot. And asked questions of others because he genuinely wanted to know what the other person thought, or just to know about them. Is that true of us? There was always something so genuine about Fred Rogers and, if the movie, based on a true story, is accurate, that’s because Mr. Rogers was genuine.
I tell people a lot in my talks that it’s more important to be kind than to be ‘right.’ But sometimes I think that when you know you’re right, it’s so easy to be kind. You can have compassion toward the person or people who have things wrong, who see the world a bit ‘topsy turvy,’ who live in a constant state of false ideas or who are just lost and don’t know what they believe. All those things can make a person angry out of frustration. Or if someone has been hurt by people in their lives who never should have hurt them, as in the scenario in the movie, that can leave you angry, too.
Anger is a symptom of an underlying problem that is fixable. Another thing Mr. Rogers says in the movie, which is just priceless: “If something is mentionable, then it’s manageable.” As one who has spent time talking with a psychiatrist due to depression, I am here to tell you that this statement is true. We allow our problems and issues to grow from tiny pebbles into major boulders in our minds. Unpleasant things, or worse, can become even more difficult to deal with as we leave them unspoken, as we neglect them or think about them much too often. Mentioning makes them manageable. You, and someone who cares about helping you, can come up with a plan to manage the hurt, the frustrations, the pain and so the anger. And then, one day – maybe not right away – but one day, you can be kind because you now have things in their right order in your mind and heart.
I digressed a bit here, but I do think that, because we can’t all have a Fred Rogers in our lives like the journalist in the film, we need to find someone to talk to who will listen and help us work our way out of any maze we’ve gotten lost in. Of course, me being me, I include here taking things to that God who created you out of nothing but love for you. Before you even made it out into the world to breathe your first amazing breath, God knew you. So know that you are always loved, even when you might not feel loved. And remember that you are lovable for the same reason – you are always loved. God never forgets about you for even half a second! And then, once you gratefully embrace that truth, you can love others better. And then you can be kind. And then you can let everyone you meet know that they are precious.
If you have the opportunity, go see the movie. Just relax and breathe. Then experience the film. Have a beautiful day!