Today is Mr. Rogers' Birthday.
Today, I find that my mind escapes to those simple times of kid-hood, when the smooth, mellifluous voice of Mr. Rogers emanated from the TV and into my room. His rather silly and pretentious puppets, who always learned an important life lesson from their experiences, to his slow and deliberate way of talking. Oh, sure, comedians like Eddie Murphy and Robin Williams poked fun at him, but I never took it as attacks, but satire, and even to a point, maybe appreciation. But why today, when I'm in my 50's, does Fred Rogers still speak to me and have such an influence on me? Because there are still many others who share with me that same experience.
It has been often said that Fred Rogers never talked down to his audience of children: he talked TO them. That is a great difference. I think of another show that my own kids liked (and I did too for that matter), "Blues Clues". The hosts of that show did kinda make it sound like they were talking to kids, with higher pitched voices, and a vocal cadence and delivery that suggested that they were trying to get the audience engaged by making them think everything was exciting. But Mr. Rogers simply talked to the kids - simply. No big words, and even big concepts were delivered in very easy and simple terms. And he could hold onto a child's attention by talking to them - talking DIRECTLY to each child - as if that child was the only one in the world.
Lately, I've seen stories posted in social media about some things that Mr. Rogers did that show his very human side, and of course, most people know that he was ordained clergy. But you'd never know that seeing the man on PBS. He was the local guy who changed into his Vans and sweater, fed his goldfish, talked to and welcomed all his neighbors onto his porch or into his home, allowed for and encouraged imaginative play, and made each child feel like they were his sole focus for that brief time each and every day.
I didn't live a traumatic childhood, but I am sure that there are many children who felt unwanted, unloved, unworthy, and they'd see this gentle man tell them that they WERE special - to him. What a wonderful and glorious thing he did for humanity.