I recently went to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood with my parents around Thanksgiving (side note: would really recommend, especially for a pick-me-up around finals season!). As soon as the film's opening music filled the movie theater, I felt happy and nostalgic. It's no surprise that my happy mood continued throughout the entire movie – after all, Mr. Rogers (played by the incredible Tom Hanks) has a charming and loving personality that draws people to him like a magnet. The movie is a portrayal of how he breathes love and kindness to a broken and needy world. I believe that we can view Mr. Rogers as an inspiration to be lights for others, even if we are not television stars. Here are some ways to emulate Mr. Rogers in our daily lives, especially during the most hectic time of the year.
Be kinder than necessary
Mr. Rogers always goes above-and-beyond in his actions to others. He spends extra time talking to those who need love, and shows up for people he barely knows (with baked goods in hand). This is one of my favorite qualities of Mr. Rogers. Although he knows that he can't solve the world's problems, he realizes that showing excessive kindness to those who are hurting can turn their lives around.
Be genuine in all you do
The movie clearly shows that Mr. Rogers draws no distinction between his on-screen and real-life persona. He is just as kind and considerate in his personal life as he is on his television show. His authenticity inspires us to simply be ourselves in every situation. I believe that, if we were to be genuine on our social media platforms, in our workplaces, and with our friends and families, we would change the atmosphere.
One of Mr. Roger's attitudes in the film is that he doesn't just love people – he loves everything about people. He wants to know people inside and out, and he isn't afraid of what he might find. For example, his independent conversations with Andrea, Lloyd's wife, show that he cares deeply about all aspects of Lloyd's life – not just their own relationship. Like Mr. Rogers, we can learn to love the people in our lives holistically. We can spread kindness into every corner of their lives beyond our relationships we have on the surface.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood largely focuses on expressing difficult emotions, such as anger or frustration, in a healthy way. Mr. Roger does not say a mean word throughout the entire movie – instead, he expresses negative emotions through swimming, praying for others and hitting the lower keys of the piano really loudly. As his wife, Joanne Rogers, admits, having such excellent self-control in our words and emotions is certainly a challenge. However, the benefits of being self-disciplined in our emotions far outweigh the challenges we may face. Learning to express our emotions would reduce the exchange of unkind words, causing our relationships to flourish.
By the time that the film was set, Mr. Rogers had far surpassed his childhood years. Despite this, he maintains childlike behavior, from singing songs on his television show, to bringing his friend, Lloyd, his favorite puppets. In fact, Mr. Rogers exhibits the difference between being childish and childlike. He does not ignore the suffering of others, but he does maintain a hopeful and youthful attitude, always looking for the best in those around him. We, too, may be beyond our childhood, yet we can always maintain that naïve wonder and excitement that marked Mr. Rogers' life. As he so well demonstrates, we can maintain the best and brightest parts of youth, even if we age.
We may never be famous like Mr. Rogers is, but we do not need a TV platform to be a light for others. We can use the platform right where we are to encourage, inspire and love those around us. We may not change a nation – but we can start by changing one person. I at least believe that this is the advice that Mr. Rogers would give to each of us today. After all, his desire to live in kindness demonstrates the message of his TV show: we all need a bit of neighborly love.