Listen to Mr. Roger’s lessons this semester

Shelley Blundell

As my birthday is five days before Christmas, it’s not often that I get to spend it with many of my friends, wrapped up as they are in pre-Christmas hoopla. Add to this the fact that many people “double up” on the gift, giving one gift for two occasions, and my birthday happiness sometimes turns quite sour.

But this year, a dear friend of mine (who appreciates my warped sense of humor) saw fit to give me a gift that sustains the ages, no matter how dismal the day – a wee book entitled The World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember by the perspicacious Fred Rogers himself.

Not growing up in the United States, I had only a vague understanding of who Rogers actually was. I knew he was a besweatered icon of PBS’ yesteryear children’s programming and many Americans had faithfully watched him during their childhoods, but that’s where it ended. Until I started reading the book.

As my said friend had given me the book in a bar on my birthday, I was not completely in my right mind at the time to appreciate the wisdom within the pages of Rogers’ book, instead choosing to make fun of little ridiculousnesses like the lyrics to the song “What do you do with the mad that you feel,” a mini-lesson in childhood anger management, or the chapter that deals with, ugh, feelings.

True, Rogers was targeting his message at children, so maybe the simplistic language is initially what threw me off. But when I discovered the book a few days ago and began to read it sans impairment, I was truly amazed at just how intuitive, and accomplished, Rogers really was.

Rogers’ program, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” was a testament to Rogers’ diversity and his keen understanding of children of all ages. As a minister, musician and student of child development, Rogers found ways to blend both the positive and negative sides of life into his show, giving children coping skills for emotions like anger, fear, resentment and sadness. His ability to tackle even the toughest issues of the day with tact and simplicity helped make him the cultural and educational icon that he continues to be, even after his death in 2003.

So, for all of you beginning your first, or like me, your last semester at Kent State, I offer you some words of wisdom from the timeless Mr. Rogers:

• “Whatever we choose to imagine can be as private as we want it to be. Nobody knows what you’re thinking or feeling unless you share it.”

• “You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.”

• “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.”

• “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”

• “There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.”

And finally, my personal favorite,

• “Discovering the truth about ourselves is a lifetime’s work, but it’s worth the effort.”

No matter how old we are, I think we could all learn a little something from Mr. Rogers. Have a good, and neighborly, semester.

Shelley Blundell is a history graduate, a senior magazine journalism major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].