Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Thursday, March 3, 2011

"The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember" by Fred Rogers

This is one of the books I picked up at Goodwill last month. It's a posthumous collection of quotes by Fred Rogers (who, as any true American no doubt knows, was the Mister Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on PBS) mixed in with a few aphorisms he gathered from other sources. The book is a lovely tribute to a kind and good-hearted man.

Of course, at times some of the quotes tend towards the sappy. Fred's middle name wasn't "McFeely" for nothing. (I'm not kidding. That really was his middle name. At least it was for a good reason--remember Mr. McFeely on the show? He was named after Mister Rogers' grandfather.) But every page, even when overly sentimental, has a thoughtful and admirable truth.

Here's one of my favorites. "Solitude is different from loneliness, and it doesn't have to be a lonely kind of thing." I could have written that myself, if I had a habit of making up pithy sayings. I love to be alone, and it seems not many people understand that. Another good one, which puts into words something I really hope to instill in my kids: "I believe it's a fact of life that what we have is less important than what we make out of what we have."

Though each page was full of simple wisdom, I didn't always completely agree with every quote. When Mister Rogers said, "It always helps to have people we love beside us when we have to do difficult things in life," the first thing that came to my mind was that it helps me more to listen to loud music. But then that mainly applies to my "difficult thing" of cleaning the house. I've come to find that sort of task is made much easier with a soundtrack. Onerous chores are more palatable if I can do them while "wiggling my jiggly old butt." (Courtesy of my youngest. Don't I have great kids?)

Enough about my butt, the jiggliness of which I will neither confirm nor deny. The book gives a good feel for what kind of man Fred Rogers was, especially with the foreword by his wife Joanne and the short bio at the end, but it just scratches the surface. I'm left wanting to read a biography of Fred Rogers. Do you know of a good one?

Won't you be my neighbor?


Avid Reader said...

This makes me want to learn more about Mr. Rogers. I can't believe his middle name was really McFeely.

Kathy said...

I know! It sounds more like a joke nickname for that guy we all knew in high school--you know, Touchy McFeely? ;)

Priya Parmar said...

i heard something recently about him, that he was a child psychologist and the reason he changed his sweater and shoes was to give kids a feeling of home and safety. apparently everything he did was to promote a feeling of security and individuality and confidence in kids?

Kathy said...

From what it says in the short bio at the end of the book, he did study children and families at the Graduate School of Child Development in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and was mentored by clinical psychologist Dr. Margaret B. McFarland. I don't think he was actually a psychologist, though he did earn a BA in Music Composition from Rollins College and a MDiv from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

But, yes, this little book is full of quotes that make it quite clear that Mister Rogers was all about promoting security, individuality, and confidence in kids. As well as personal responsibility, courage, thoughtfulness, humility, understanding, and a host of other wonderful qualities. He sounds like he was such a good man!

Bellezza said...

I grew up watching Mr. Rogers. He was one of the few parent endorsed television 'celebrities' that we were allowed. Interesting about McFeely, I never knew that.

Kathy said...

I, too, have such fond memories of Mr. Rogers. I wonder if my kids even know who he was? I don't know what they would think of his show now . . . it's probably not flashy enough for them. Which makes me sad.

Scott Jordan Harris said...

I was so happy to find this article when I was Googling 'Mr Rogers'. I recently wrote this piece, for The Spectator, called 'Why I Love Mr Rogers'.

As I mention in it, if you're looking for a Mr Rogers book, the collection of letters 'Dear Mister Rogers: Does it Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?' would be an absolutely wonderful choice. It is, I have no shame in confessing, the only book that has ever made me cry.

Kathy said...

SJH--thanks for leaving the link to your article. I finally got around to reading it today and I really enjoyed it. So glad you've discovered Mr Rogers, even if you missed out as a child! You're right, we might all benefit from a little WWMRD perspective.