It still hurts to think about Fred Rogers. It’s been seventeen years since his passing, and the thought of him still brings tears to my eyes. Thirty seconds into the Tom Hanks movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, I was a puddle. I remember my husband looked over at me as I was openly sobbing in a public theater and asked, “Are you going to be okay?” And as I sit here writing now, if my husband were to pop out to the deck and see the state I’m in, I’m sure he’d ask the same question.
It’s a really good question. I’ve been pondering that very same question for quite some time these days . . .
Are we going to be okay?
When I was a child, Mr. Rogers was a quiet, calming presence. He spoke so simply and he spoke directly to me. Even as I got older and was deemed by my older brother “too old” to watch Mr. Rogers, I still found myself drawn to him. I was too young to be able to pinpoint why that was. Even as I write this right now, I struggle to find the words to say how I feel.
Maybe that’s just it . . .
Because of Fred Rogers, I learned it was okay to feel.
It’s okay to feel happy.
It’s okay to feel sad.
It’s okay to feel scared.
It’s okay to feel mad.
It’s okay to feel shame.
It’s okay to feel proud.
It’s okay to feel quiet.
It’s okay to feel loud.
It’s okay to feel exactly how you’re feeling today.
It’s okay to feel feelings.
You’re going to be okay.
Thank you, Fred, my Everywhere Friend. You taught me all I ever really needed to know.
Fred Rogers is the 2020 recipient of the Magic Penny Award. For more on his work and legacy, see Phil Hoose’s interview with Rogers, “The Gift of Your Honest Self,” originally published in Issue #19/20, Summer 1995, and reprinted in Issue #83, Spring 2017.