Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

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Food: I know my meals are becoming quite redundant, because it’s been a lot of morning movies – but I’ll try to mix it up for next time. During this feature, though, I made an egg sandwich. This involves toasting two slices of bread, cooking an egg over easy, and adding butter and a slice of cheddar cheese. I also like drank kombucha (preferably Strawberry Kiwi flavor) from a company called AquaVitea – which is the most delicious and healthy drink of all time, in my humble opinion.

Film: Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a documentary that focuses on the life of the famed Fred Rogers, primarily focusing on his time on the PBS children’s show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Where others seek celebrity by means of standing out by means of quick entertainment, explosions, excitement, pizzazz, Mr. Fred Roger’s was quiet, simple, and soft spoken. He took time each episode to put a sweater on and change his shoes to instill a feeling of comfort with his audience. He was not uncomfortable with silence. He would listen carefully and patiently while a child stuttered and stammered through something they were trying to say.

At this time, and frankly, any time in culture, where the state of society can seem discouraging, complacent, or even evil, it is so important to be reminded of people in the world like Fred Rogers, who brought such purity, thoughtfulness and intention to the world.  He reveled in the human experience. He taught people how to live by loving others unconditionally in the least preachy way imaginable. The documentary mentions moments such as the time when he shared a swimming pool and a towel with a black friend of his on the show, as a form of speaking out against segregation in swimming pools that was causing a lot of controversy around the United States. There was also a powerful moment in history, when he spoke to Congress and was able to persuade them to keep PBS on the air, simply by telling the judge about a song he teaches the children about controlling their emotions.

I also really appreciated how the documentary involved plenty of interviews with people in his life who were closest to him – his family and friends – to give us insight into his personality away from the camera, and ensure us that he was still the same guy we knew and loved. And how he, so endearingly, used those puppets to express his emotions. This film explored gently the times when he felt the most discouraged about the state of the world. It is important that people see him as real human being, with all the same insecurities and complexities as anyone else, but how effective it can be to just move through the world with such patience and care. He can seem like this unattainable figurehead for “Goodness” but I think this documentary reminds us that we can all be this way, and act with intention.

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