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Nov22FriWhen a journalist profiles a beloved children's TV star, his own life is turned inside out. November 22, 2019 by Jeanette levellie
When Esquire journalist Lloyd Vogel receives an assignment to profile Fred Rogers, the iconic creator of the PBS children’s program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, he balks. How can someone who tells children, “I like you just the way you are,” be real?
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So begins TriStar Pictures’ A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, in theatres next month. Tom Hanks stars as the beloved Mister Rogers while Matthew Rhys (The Americans) portrays the Esquire journalist.
A Real Hero
When Lloyd shares his thoughts with his wife, Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson, This Is Us), she begs him not to ruin her childhood by writing a disparaging exposé.
During the interview, Lloyd asks Fred Rogers if he considers himself a hero. The minister-turned-TV-star replies, “We are trying to give the world ways to deal with their feelings.”
With doubts about his own foray into fatherhood and upsetting memories from his past, Lloyd is painfully familiar with ugly feelings. “Sometimes we have to ask for help—and that’s OK,” Fred tells him.
Over the next few weeks, Fred’s understanding and prayers help pull Lloyd out of despair. The once-jaded journalist is now a recipient of Fred’s genuine concern for individuals. He goes on to write a tribute about a true hero—his hero.
Directed by Marielle Heller (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, the film is not a biopic of Fred Rogers. Instead, it shows how one man lived out the universal truth we all long to believe: gentleness is more powerful than hate and love can turn a life around.
“It’s a story for our times, a story about kindness and family connection and trying to tap into our better self. God knows we need that right now,” Heller told Entertainment Weekly. “In the research for the movie, the writers found that more people than they could possibly count credited Mister Rogers with changing their lives. The movie is about one man who’s at a critical point in his life, and meeting Mister Rogers to write a piece about him— thinking it’s going to be a bit of a puff piece—ends up changing his entire life.”
In a day when hate may seem to reign, young and old alike need helpers and heroes. Biblical characters such as Abraham, Moses and King David come to mind. More recently, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa certainly qualify. Yet God relies on ordinary people to make a positive difference in our own neighbourhoods.
We can become someone’s helper or hero simply by showing the love of God in commonplace ways. A kind word, a warm meal, even a smile can reach into a hurting heart and create a lifelong change. Giving a neighbour a ride to church, mentoring a troubled child, saying “I appreciate you” can make us heroes to those around us.
“Look for the helpers” is one of Mister Rogers’ most iconic quotes. Can you be one of those helpers?
Mister Rogers: Fast Facts
- Fred Rogers began playing piano at age five.
- He was red/green colourblind. Ironically, his two most popular sweaters were red and green.
- He composed most of the songs used on the TV show.
- Rogers’ mother knitted all of the cardigans he wore on the program. A red one now hangs on display in the Smithsonian Institute.
- He hosted 895 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood over 31 seasons, from 1968 to 2001.
Quotable Quotes From Mister Rogers
- I think the best thing we can do is to let people know that each one of them is precious.
- 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.
- Nobody else can live the life you live. We always have the chance to bring what’s unique about us to live in a redeeming way.
- Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.
- People have said, “Don’t cry,” and all it has ever meant is, “I’m too uncomfortable when you show your feelings.” I’d rather have them say, “Go ahead and cry. I’m here to be with you.”
- There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.
- I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.
- Deep down, we know that what really matters in this life is more than winning for ourselves. It is helping others win, too.