Let’s Take a Page from Mister Rogers

This story is not about addiction. It is however about a societal crisis involving addiction. Yes, we mean the opioid crisis. And considering Mister Rogers so adroitly tackled such societal issues as racism, hate and suicide over the course of his 30-year-plus television run, it seems only natural to want to turn to the man on this issue too.

Unfortunately for everyone, Mister Rogers isn’t here to help us address the opioid epidemic. His remarkable legacy is still here though. As is his equally remarkable message. A message that reverberated loudly and clearly in everything he stood for.

That message is goodness, earnestness and compassion. That message is love. And we need Mister Rogers’ message now more than ever.

Got doubts? Then check out Morgan Neville’s triumphant new documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? For there your doubts will not only disappear; they’ll transform into the love and hope we all could really use.

And yes, that transformation comes through the wide open eyes and ears — and hearts — of children.

“Kids are very open and direct,” Neville told Den of Geek, “as is Fred Rogers, and they respond to him directly. They get him and he gets them.”

Adults too often forget just how to be open or direct, at least with the earnestness we had as children. And, says Neville, we’d all do well to go back and take a look at our younger selves.

“Revisiting [Rogers] as an adult is a kind of revelatory experience. It’s a chance to kind of understand things that you understood as a child but had forgotten in a way. [It allows you to] rediscover some of that emotional honesty you had.”

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? reminds us just how simply and deeply Mister Rogers dealt with kids. The doc also show that his interacting was far from easy.

“As you see in the film,” says Neville, “it took an amazing amount of work to make things that simple and deep.”

Indeed. What’s perhaps most amazing is how deeply such simple things can impact our lives — and our communities.

“What I think Fred Rogers wanted,” says Neville, “was to hold up a mirror and ask people what they were doing in their lives to make their neighborhoods better.”

Share a smile. Extend a helping hand. Embrace each other’s uniqueness. Understand. These are the gestures that reap mighty dividends. And these are the gestures that made for the mighty goodness in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

No, says Neville, Mister Rogers “wasn’t just a saint who did this with ease; he did what he did with great effort and great sacrifice. Nothing that significant, nothing that profound can happen without that level of effort, the sacrifice. Nothing that good comes that easy.”

Mister Rogers’ level of goodness may not have come easy, but it came naturally. And if we follow the legendary good guy’s extraordinary lead, some of that great goodness may begin to come naturally to us as well. If the stigma of addiction is ever going to be eradicated and the addict warmly welcomed back into society, it’s going to take some great goodness indeed.

Winning the battle against addiction is also going to take equally great amounts of earnestness and compassion. And, yes, it’s going to take an even greater amount of love. For in the immortal words of Mister Rogers:

“The greatest thing that we can do is have somebody know that they’re loved and capable of loving.”

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