Inside the living room, the old man laying on a mattress is literally on his death bed. He looks over to his son and says, “I am so sorry, son. It’s not fair, you know? I think I’m just now starting to figure out how to live my life. I always loved you.”
If I was disappointed as A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood seemed to be less about Fred Rogers and more about the journalist interviewing him, I wasn’t by this point. It was absolutely clear to me that this movie could do more for humanity than just telling his story could. If you’ve followed me, you know that Fred is one of my heroes. I aspire to be like him every day, and I often feel like it’s an unattainable state. But just as his intention with Mister Rogers was to give children an “expression of care,” with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood he once again gave his viewers, now adults, an expression of care to literally transform our hearts.
This movie reminds you of the most important aspects of your life:
- Be you, not what you think anyone expects of you. That is your gift to the world.
- Relationships ARE your legacy. Do them well. With love, empathy, and kindness.
- Everyone is human. Once you can deeply know that, and connect with them – human to human – you bring divinity into form. Love is seeing the human inside each one of us. Not the role or expectation we try to place on them.
The parallels to our own life were apparent. My husband’s father cheated on his wife, abused her, and she died very suddenly before anyone was ready for her to, from brain cancer. He also assaulted my husband. The main characters in A Beautiful Day are grappling with guilt, inner child wounds, and ice-cold closed hearts that have long forgotten how to feel. Fred Rogers, just by being the space for those emotions to express, created immense healing for everyone.
Fred Rogers: Would you do something with me, Lloyd? It’s an exercise I like to do sometimes. We’ll just take a minute and think about all the people who loved us into being.
Lloyd Vogel: I can’t do that.
Fred Rogers: They will come to you. Just one minute of silence.
[as Fred and Lloyd sit silently, the whole restaurant suddenly becomes silent too]
Fred Rogers: Thank you for doing that with me. I feel so much better.
It was also beautiful to watch him pray for so many at night, and beautiful to hear him speak the slow and gentle words that carried much weight and much relief at the same time.
[referring to Fred]
Lloyd Vogel: So how does it feel to be married to a living saint?
Joanne Rogers: You know, I’m not fond of that term. If you think of him as a saint, then his way of being is unattainable. You know, he works at it all the time. It’s a practice. He’s not a perfect person. He has a temper. He chooses how he responds to that anger.
Lloyd Vogel: That must take a lot of effort.
Joanne Rogers: Well, yeah, he does things every day that help to ground him. Reads Scripture. Swims laps. Prays for people by name. Writes letters, hundreds of them. He’s been doing that since I met him.
I bought this movie hoping to learn more about my hero, and watched the credits even more inspired by him, a feat I never thought possible.
Thank you to Tom Hanks and everyone who worked on this movie because just bringing it to life has the potential to help so many — and I’m especially happy that you focused on the father-son relationship as it is the most critically undervalued and mistreated relationship. Healing this one relationship would radically change the world as we know it.