‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ taught us to love—not fear—our neighbor.
“Would you be mine, could you be mine, please would you be my neighbor?” The threefold question repeats for nearly 900 episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It’s the recurring song Fred Rogers sings as he enters the front door, removes his jacket, replaces it with a zippered cardigan, and makes his way down the stairs of his television set home to swap out his dress shoes for canvas sneakers.
Growing up watching the slow-moving, soft-spoken Fred Rogers on PBS, I could not have imagined his resurgence in my mid-thirties. Yet Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the 2018 documentary on Fred Rogers’ television show, is already the highest-grossing biographical documentary of all time.
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood releases on November 22, a dramatic retelling of the unexpected friendship between a journalist and Rogers, starring Tom Hanks as the most beloved neighbor in America. With an estimated budget of $40 million and one of Hollywood’s most amiable stars in the lead role, the man in the red sweater has become an unexpected commodity. But why the sudden popularity now?
Notably, Fred Rogers’s television entrance always climaxes with the same subject: “neighbor.” Specifically, it is an invitation to be a neighbor. In a way, it’s an echo of Jesus’s conversation with a lawyer in Luke 10, where he asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the law?” Jesus asks in reply.“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind,” the lawyer replies, recalling Deuteronomy 6:5. “And your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).“You …