The Day I Met Mister Rogers
Mister Rogers has been in the news a lot lately. A few weeks ago, I saw an article about a movie being made of his life called, appropriately enough,'You are my Friend'. This morning, I received a press release from the USPS in regards to a new stamp to honor Mister Rogers that will be released next month. While the ceremony will be held in my hometown of Pittsburgh, we can all watch the ceremony here.
He began his groundbreaking public television series, 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' in a television studio in Pittsburgh. It was innovative, there wasn't anything like it at the time and in 1968 it began to be distributed nationally. Who doesn't remember him opening each show singing 'Won't you be my Neighbor' as he changed into his sweater and tennis shoes?
He talked about what it was like to grow up, be scared, worried, and how to make friends. He even tackled tough subjects like divorce and loss. In fact, he went on to write books for children to help them on their first visit to the doctors, dentists, hospitals, and pre-school. I've read these books to our grandson to help him as he begins doing so many firsts.
I had the honor of meeting Mister Rogers in 1998 when he was a presenter at the Val-Kill awards in Hyde Park. I listened intently as he spoke at the podium and after the ceremony, I timidly approached him, not wanting to bother him, plus I wasn't sure I could get any words out, I was so nervous. He was gracious and kind. I told him that I had watched him as a child growing up, told him how he had impacted my life. I thanked him for his kindness and generosity of spirit. He took my hand in his and thanked me for being there with him during all of those shows.
It is a moment I will never forget, meeting the man who meant so much to me as a child and who cared enough about children to make that his life's work. I am often asked if I have a picture of that moment, but as this was before smartphones, I don't. But I still see it clearly in my mind and meeting him remains one of the greatest moments of my life.