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20 Life Lessons From Mister Rogers

Before there was Blippi, before there was Blue’s Clues, there was Mister Rogers, aka Fred McFeely Rogers, the host of the eponymous children’s television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Rogers was the sort of TV host that both kids and parents trusted and enjoyed. Known for his calm demeanor, friendly attitude, and astute life lessons, Rogers established himself as an icon for the more than three decades that the PBS show aired. He began each episode by changing into one of his trademark cardigan sweaters and slipping on some sneakers while singing the show’s theme song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” And he concluded each episode with the song “Tomorrow.”

The series ran for 31 seasons, from 1968 through 2001. On the show, Rogers dispensed timeless wisdom about how to be kind to others, how to feel good about yourself, and what to do when you’re up against your worst fears. He used everything from puppets to songs to chats with friendly neighborhood pals to teach kids about the importance of empathy and compassion, encouraging his young viewers to dream big, explore the world, and above all else, be kind. Here, we’ve rounded up 20 of Rogers’ most memorable quotes,  reminders of the good old days of turning on the TV and spending an afternoon in the neighborhood.

On Kindness

All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors — in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.

As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has or ever will have, something inside that is unique to all time.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Imagine what our real neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.

On Love

​​Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like “struggle.” To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.

Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.

Listening is where love begins: listening to ourselves and then to our neighbors.

I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what he will be.

Mutual caring relationships require kindness and patience, tolerance, optimism, joy in the other's achievements, confidence in oneself, and the ability to give without undue thought of gain.

On Healing

Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life's important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.

​​There is no normal life that is free of pain. It’s the very wrestling with our problems that can be the impetus for our growth.

When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting and less scary.

On Living Life to Its Fullest

It’s not so much what we have in this life that matters. It’s what we do with what we have.

The thing I remember best about successful people I've met all through the years is their obvious delight in what they're doing, and it seems to have very little to do with worldly success. They just love what they're doing, and they love it in front of others.

It’s good to be curious about many things.

You rarely have time for everything you want in this life, so you need to make choices. And hopefully your choices can come from a deep sense of who you are.

On Individuality

If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of.

We all have different gifts, so we all have different ways of saying to the world who we are.

It’s really easy to fall into the trap of believing that what we do is more important than what we are. Of course, it’s the opposite that’s true: What we are ultimately determines what we do!

The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.

Photo credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Joyce Chen
Joyce Chen is a writer, editor, and community builder based in Seattle, Washington.
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