On November 22, the much-anticipated movie about the real-life friendship between journalist Tom Junod and beloved television star Fred Rogers opened in theaters around the world. As one critic wrote, “Many a movie will make you laugh or cry or think. But very few make you want to be a better person.” A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood does that.
It may also fill you with gratitude.
Appropriate for All Ages
A staple in millions of American homes, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood made its U.S. national debut in 1968 and aired on PBS until 2001. While the half-hour television series with its gentle life lessons was aimed primarily at children ages 2 to 5, the show was labeled “as appropriate for all ages.” Honestly, I think many people would agree that Fred Rogers’ observations and advice are needed by adults more than children!
What makes Fred Rogers’ so special is his authenticity: By all accounts, he was just as calm, intelligent and compassionate off-screen as he was on. Not only did he educate countless children, he was an advocate and activist for children from all backgrounds, and far ahead of his time when dealing with issues such as bullying, disabilities, divorce and racism.
Mr. Rogers gave us many wonderful, inspiring quotes, but there are a few that are especially appropriate as we celebrate this week of giving thanks.
Mr. Rogers: 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.”
Lesson: Be thankful for the helpers in the world and in your life.
It’s easy to get caught up in all the negativity we hear on the news every day and overlook the “helpers.” Like the woman who opened a shelter for abused women that allows pets (something many do not); the man who is fixing up old RVs for families who lost their homes to California’s worst wildfire; or the professional dancer who opened an arts center for kids living in the heart of America’s opioid epidemic.
These amazing people are being recognized as part of the Top 10 CNN Heroes of 2019, but there are many other quiet, unsung heroes who reach out and assist others every day without recognition or awards—from first responders to volunteers and neighbors.
Who are the “helpers” in your life? Be sure to say thanks.
Mr. Rogers: If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.
Lesson: Be thankful for the people who touch your life in both big and small ways, and recognize your own importance.
Each day we get to choose how we’ll interact with others. Will we smile at the barista and say thank you for our morning coffee or grumble about the long line? Will we greet our co-workers with a sincere “how are you today?” and thank them for their contributions or spend the day complaining about our “to do” list? Will we hold the door open for the woman who has a baby in a stroller and a toddler in tow or hurry out as fast as we can?
Every interaction, every encounter can be meaningful. Today, I’m feeling thankful for the man who stopped to let me pull out of my neighborhood on a busy morning commute, the co-worker who took the time to help me find a file on the server, and a friend who gave me a laugh by sharing a funny meme. None of these things were life-changing, but they certainly made my day brighter. In turn, I hope I made others feel loved, recognized and appreciated—or at least a bit happier.
Mr. Rogers: It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.
Lesson: Be thankful for all the good in your life and share what you can.
Remember when your parents admonished you for not finishing your dinner because there were starving children in the world? Well, they were right! And, unfortunately, there are still too many children going hungry. There are also people living on the streets, losing homes to wildfires and floods, dealing with serious illnesses, unemployment, abuse, loneliness and more.
It’s easy to fall down the “I wish I had more…” rabbit hole and begin comparing yourself to those who seem to have “everything.” However, once you’re in that dark pit of self-pity, it can be hard to climb out.
I’m willing to bet that most of the people reading this have much to be thankful for. If that’s the case, take some time to really appreciate all the good, simple things in your life. And, if you find you have enough time, money, clothes, compassion, etcetera to share with those less fortunate, please do. Like the Grinch, you may find your heart growing three sizes in one day! It will also help you to be truly grateful for what you have in this life.
And that brings me to another great quote:
Mr. Rogers: We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.
Well said Mr. Rogers. I consider those people my heroes, too. And, I’m thankful for them.
Happy Thanksgiving from the Spry Ideas team!