“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?”
Those first lines are a clue to today’s must read biography: The Good Neighbor: the Life and Work of Fred Rogers by Maxwell King. King does a thorough job of covering the life of Fred Rogers -- from a lonely childhood where he spent hours playing with puppets, through his college and seminary years and into his television career. After completing music and ministry degrees, he made it his life’s work to help young children learn, grow and cope with life’s challenges.
For almost 40 years Fred Rogers spoke directly into a camera to millions of children. The author says that Rogers’ lesson is as simple and direct as Fred was -- “human kindness will always make life better.” After writing each week’s script, Rogers would confer with Margaret McFarland, an early childhood specialist, to insure that every word he spoke would help his young viewers feel safe. And he wasn’t afraid to address tougher issues such as divorce, death and prejudice.
In 1969, Rogers testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications and successfully convinced them to restore $20 million in funding to public television. Author King writes that Rogers is still a “powerful cultural avatar in an age sick with rage and conflict.”
Even if you didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers, you’ll benefit from reading The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King. It left me wanting to be a better person.
I’m Betty Martin and “I like you just the way you are.”