Over Thanksgiving break, my family went to the movies. My mom particularly wanted to see the new movie about Mr. Rogers, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. I watched Mr. Rogers growing up, and had heard bits and pieces about his kindness and gentleness, but I really didn’t know a lot about him before I went to the movie. I’m sure you’re wondering why I am writing about this movie that came out over two months ago now, but it just keeps popping up into head when I think about camp.
I won’t go too much into the plot if you’re still wanting to see it without any kind of frontloading, but I was struck with how Mr. Rogers interacted with two types of people: first, how he talked to children, and second, how he talked to strangers. What became more clear as the movie went on is that Mr. Rogers is a great role model for camp counselors and camp staff in general.
When Mr. Rogers spoke to children, he never talked down to them. He often would find a way to literally and figuratively be at the child’s level, and would make a point to find something to help them connect to what he said. I also realize now just how much I loved learning about different jobs and processes on his show because he was so excited to learn about them himself. That kind of modeling was incredibly impactful, and I still distinctly remember how crayons are made because of him.
When Mr. Rogers spoke to strangers, he made them feel welcomed and included immediately. In the movie, one of the adult characters pushes back against Mr. Rogers’ friendliness, and Mr. Rogers never responds with frustration or walks away, he responds with patience and calm. Slowly, we see this stranger open up over the course of the movie, and we see Mr. Rogers make a point to turn his full attention to this person in need.
Not only does Mr. Rogers make everyone feel loved and included, the movie also shows how he still takes care of himself, even in the midst of holding the love and pain of so many others. He releases frustration through playing the piano, he swims every single day, he found that a vegetarian lifestyle was healthiest for him. Even as Mr. Rogers went above and beyond to care for others, he also made a point to care for himself.
Finally, I noticed over and over throughout the movie just how much Mr. Rogers was an example of Jesus. He was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but Mr. Rogers didn’t show his faith by preaching Scripture or instructing people how to pray. He showed his Christian example by withholding judgment, by finding the good in everyone that he met, by approaching each day and interaction with joy and kindness, and by doing his best to make the world a better place for children, which makes the world a better place for all of us.
Assistant Camp Director
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