If you are a fan of Mister Rogers, you may be aware or perhaps have already seen the recently released movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is a true story based on Mister Rogers’ transformational impact on the journalist Tom Junod sent to interview him for an article in Esquire Magazine. I am not surprised at the premise of the story or that Fred Rogers had the natural capability to move someone so profoundly. His simple words and messages around kindness and acceptance have always had an impact on me. I remain today one of his greatest fans, and I highly recommend the movie.
As an educator and young parent, I watched in great appreciation every time I sat with my children for Mister Rogers’ program. I felt his words and knew they came from the heart. I wanted my children to absorb every word and action and believed if they did, they would forever be kind and respectful people. Of course, television is just television and I realized as I listened to Mister Rogers that I had the greatest influence on their day-to-day behaviors. Mister Rogers taught me and generations of parents that we must be the role models for kindness and respect every day. Children do what they see, it is as simple as that.
Our most recent School Spirit Day focused on Kindness. The timing was in sync with “world kindness day” and “cardigan day” in honor of Mr. Rogers. Children and staff wore school colors, favorite cardigans and apparel that sported kind words and loving graphics. There was a wonderful feeling throughout the school as we read kindness books, discussed kind deeds and took pictures of our students on our kindness mural. It was indeed a beautiful day in the Westmont neighborhood. Although grace and courtesy are central to our everyday Montessori curriculum, highlighting the importance of simply being kind at every opportunity will help our children maintain that spirit all the time.
Now that we have entered the season of giving thanks and giving and receiving gifts, it is the perfect time to seize another opportunity and let our children know that simple acts of kindness are powerful and long lasting. Research shows that when we give of ourselves, we not only make the receiver feel good but that we also feel good too; it’s a brain response. Our students already support our ongoing drive for the local food pantry and are aware they are helping others who may not have enough to eat. Our upcoming toy drive organized by Westmont moms in support of Second Chance Toys will help our students further understand that that they are giving to those less fortunate than themselves, and at the same time are being kind to the environment. You will no doubt come upon other avenues and ways in your own communities that will bring more awareness of showing kindness to your children.
Mr. Rogers simple words and iconic messages “won’t you be my neighbor?” and “are you my friend?” still ring in my ears. Knowing that we have the opportunity to pay his legacy forward every day brings great comfort.
Here’s to a wonderful kinder holiday season for all!