Fred Rogers: America's Father-Figure

A Reflection directed at children and adults


“In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of -- moments when we human beings can say "I love you," "I'm proud of you," "I forgive you," "I'm grateful for you." That's what eternity is made of: invisible imperishable good stuff.”  -- Fred Rogers


“When we treat children's play as seriously as it deserves, we are helping them feel the joy that's to be found in the creative spirit. It's the things we play with and the people who help us play that make a great difference in our lives.”

We could easily call Mr. Rogers, Rev. Rogers or Pastor Rogers. Why? Because Mr. Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister. The Presbyterian church gives what are called charges. It is like a job a minister is given to do. Well, Mr. Roger's charge was to minister to children through his work on TV. And he took that very seriously. Now, it's true, in his 40 years making Mister Roger's Neighborhood he never said I am a Christian or I am a minister and never even mentioned God or Christ, but he was maybe the greatest minister America has ever seen.

Mr. Rogers really was interested in how children like you grow. He studied how children grow with some of the most important teachers and doctors who studied how children grow. He was actually an expert in what is called child development.

One of the powerful and meaningful things Mr. Rogers showed us is how vulnerable children are. 

Do you know what the word vulnerable means? 

Well, vulnerable means easily hurt. If I am vulnerable, that means it is easy for my feelings to get hurt. Or it is easy for my mind to be influenced in bad ways.  Mr. Rogers said children are so vulnerable. Their feelings are easily hurt or their minds are easily influenced in bad ways. 

So, Mr. Rogers always wanted to encourage children, tell them how important they were and how loved they were. Because the world often told them just the opposite, that they weren’t that important and that their feelings weren’t important.

But for Mr. Rogers, it didn’t stop with children. He knew we are all vulnerable. We all get our feelings hurt. We all make mistakes. We all do things we think about and say, “I shouldn’t have done that.” 

The only difference is that children are more honest about it. Children know how easily hurt they can be. Us big people sometimes ignore it and try to act tough. 

Mr. Rogers didn’t do that. He was honest about himself. He knew he was just as vulnerable as a child. And he showed that vulnerability when he was with children, even on the TV screen. He used that vulnerability, he used his tenderness, to understand children and help them grow well.


“Some days, doing "the best we can" may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn't perfect on any front, and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.”   “The greatest gift you ever give is your honest self.”  -- Fred Rogers


“At the center of the Universe is a loving heart that continues to beat and that wants the best for every person. Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job. Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.” – Fred Rogers


“I believe that at the center of the universe there dwells a loving spirit who longs for all that’s best in all of creation, a spirit who knows the great potential of each planet as well as each person, and little by little will love us into being more than we ever dreamed possible. That loving spirit would rather die than give up on any one of us.”  -- Fred Rogers


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