Saturday, January 24, 2015

Book Review: The World According to Mister Rogers, by Fred Rogers (2003)

Mister Rogers with King Friday XIII, and the neighborhood trolley.

Fred Rogers, with his trademark cardigan sweater, singing "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

The World According to Mister Rogers, by Fred Rogers, 2003.
My favorite television show as a child was Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Sure, I liked Sesame Street a lot, but there was something special about Fred Rogers’ gentle show and the “Neighborhood of Make-Believe.” Mister Rogers didn’t do anything fancy or high tech on his television show, but through his calm and gentle demeanor, generations of children found a special friend who would show them how a Crayon was made, and also talk them through important topics like how to deal with anger and disappointment. 

The book The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember was published shortly after Rogers’ death in 2003. It collects sayings and advice from Rogers about a number of different topics. I don’t know much about the private life of Fred Rogers, but based on Tom Junod’s excellent 1998 profile of Rogers for Esquire magazine, it seems clear that Rogers was the same kind, calm, loving and patient man off screen that he was on screen. “Mister Rogers” was not just a persona that he put on for the camera; it’s who Fred Rogers really was. 

If you’re a fan of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, you’ll definitely enjoy reading The World According to Mister Rogers. Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life.” (p.19)

“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” (p.53)

“The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.” (p.81)

“There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems than can be the impetus for our growth.” (p.112)

“As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has-or ever will have-something inside that is unique to all time. It’s our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression.” (p.137)

“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.” (p.160)

Fred Rogers was important to many people who never met him personally, and the good work that he did still has an impact on people’s lives today. I’ll always be proud to have been a “neighbor” of Mister Rogers’.

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