Just after Christmas, I spotted an old friend on a new book: a photo of Fred Rogers on Gavin Edwards’ book “Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever” (New York, 2019; Harper Collins Publishers).
Since I grew up watching “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on Channel 11, Chicago’s public broadcasting station, much of the first section of the book was a comfortable, comforting review of things and characters I’ve known most of my life — the book version of seeing Mister Rogers walk onto the set, change into his cardigan sweater, and change his shoes for the episode’s adventures.
I could hear in my mind the music that was such a big part of every show, from “It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood” to the song at the end of early episodes, “Tomorrow” — not the one from “Annie,” but a more soothing assurance that “we’ll start the day tomorrow with a smile or two.”
(Editor’s notes: I’m going against my grown-up training to abbreviate Mister as Mr., since Fred Rogers didn’t. Also, repeated references in Edwards’ book to the opening song state that it referred to “this neighborhood,” not “the neighborhood.” Since the earliest book on the “Also by Gavin Edwards” pages is ” ‘Scuze Me While I Kiss This Guy: And Other Misheard Lyrics,” I’ll ignore the memories of my ears and accept the author’s, er, authority.)
The second part of the book, pages 145-236, is titled “Ten Ways to Live More Like Mister Rogers Right Now.”
I thought I might spend the first ten weeks of the year reading one section a week and trying to practice its lesson. But although I saved Part II for the new year, I eagerly read through the whole section on Jan. 2. So, on the next ten Mondays — until March 9 — I’ll present a post on another “way to live like Mister Rogers,” arming us against the difficulties we know are coming — and the ones we don’t know are coming.
We can all use some kindness and wonder in the new year. I hope you’ll join me, neighbor-readers.
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