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Not a day passes without the news of some disaster, either natural or personal. While the former may be somewhat beyond our control, the latter often leaves one reeling, wondering if more could have been done to help the situation.
Good instances are the apparent suicides of famous figures, 55-year-old fashion entrepreneur, Kate Spade, and 61-year-old TV chef, Anthony Bourdain. These individuals achieved success by most standards and cut the picture of fulfillment, drive, and purpose. Did anyone see beyond the surface? Do we collectively go beyond and above in providing a listening ear and a comforting shoulder to people who may give just about enough cues in this regard?
There are so many questions about the complexity of human existence, which makes the re-entry into TV, of the iconic Mr. Rogers in a new documentary “Won’t you be my neighbor,” as telling as it is nostalgic. Many will recall, with Goosebumps, the much-loved “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which aired between 1963 and 2001 across 1,765 episodes. Mr. Rogers used the show to reveal that the human spirit can be kind, compassionate and altruistic; teaching these values to children and pushing adults to better their lot and that of a neighbor.
The new documentary comes at the most auspicious time in man’s existence. The cardigan-clad television host’s dulcet tranquility taught countless children and adults to aspire to a generosity the world often lacks, which it very much needs. We live in times when it has become the norm to place self-aggrandizement and personal gain at the helm of daily life and living. So although we are stunned by tragic news such as that of Spade and Bourdain, we are still bound by selfishness and frivolous judgments in our relationships.
The man himself has a ready smile, one that kills on any occasion. A natural philosopher, Rogers, through the show, strived to make people better. He practiced a brand of innate positivity that served as a counterbalance to a mass media that did little to educate and comfort people ― especially young people still coming to terms with the ways of the world around them.
He lived by the very words he often spoke: ‘The greatest thing that we can do is to help someone know that they’re loved and capable of loving.’ If every individual could somehow live by and practice this tenet, maybe the world’s light will shine a little brighter, and our earth will be a much better place to be, not one where people feel they just need to leave (suicide) as soon as it looks like they have nowhere to go.
So if you want to escape the present harsh realities, leave for a perfect place and then return armed with the conviction to be kinder, sweeter and more accommodating, “Won’t You be my Neighbor” should be that push you need. While watching the documentary may indeed provide temporary relief, the lessons are powerful enough to encourage great change.