I recently watched the Mr. Rogers movie, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”, starring Tom Hanks. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly encourage you to break out the pop corn and fire up whatever streaming service you prefer.
It is a truly remarkable movie about a wonderful human being.
I’m from England originally and was never brought up with the Rogers household name. In fact I’d never heard of him until long after I settled in the States, married and had children of my own.
So when I sat down to watch the movie, I had no preconceived ideas about what I would see. Only my wife’s childhood recollection and fond memories.
There’s a line in the movie where the tough, hard hitting New York news reporter is talking to Mr. Rogers on the phone for the first time. The news reporter is used to asking hard questions and getting into the really dark parts of his interviewees lives in the hopes of uncovering something more shocking.
Mr. Rogers asked the reporter, “do you know what’s the most important thing in the world to me right now?”
I think almost everyone that watches the movie, myself included, expected him to say something like, “making the world a better place”, or, “making children happy”, or something else very predictable.
But instead, he says, “I’m talking to you, so right now you are the most important person to me. Our conversation is the most important thing to me right now.”
He wasn’t looking to make a statement about his long term goals, his ultimate agenda. He wasn’t pushing a line to the reporter to earn him some publicity or create an egoic image of himself that the reporter would publish.
Instead, he was completely present. Just in the moment. Not thinking of past events or future wants. Just here, now. Mindful. And that was a simple, yet profound way of letting the reporter know.
Of course, that line could simply be the imaginings of the screen writer, but if how Mr. Rogers interacts with people throughout the rest of the movie is anything like the real life Mr. Rogers, it soon becomes apparent that he operated without ego in a constant state of mindfulness.
Always seeing the good. Spellbound by life. Enjoying every moment. Never judging. Just nurturing and provoking thoughts in the people he met.
That’s really remarkable in modern society. It’s clear that he was a religious man. The movie makes reference to Jesus and the Bible.
Now whether his state of present awareness was a deliberate choice in his life, or he was just an example of somebody with a naturally quiet mind, we may never know.
But either way, we can all learn from Mr. Rogers, the real life character and the Tom Hanks version portrayed in the movie.
We should all be so lucky to be so present.
Be Mr. Rogers