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Won’t You Be My Neighbor?


Won't You Be My Neighbor?

"Mister Rogers sings "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" -- a welcome to his viewers that says no matter what they look like

Many years ago, in the early days of public television, there was a man known to kids simply as Mister Rogers. For over 30 years, Mister Rogers would start his show by entering a living room, wearing a suit jacket. He’d walk to the closet and switch it out for a cardigan sweater, all the while singing, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.”

And as he sang, he’d sit down to take off his shoes and put on his sneakers. This was his way of helping his young audience get comfy and cozy for a nice, neighborly visit. Sometimes he’d have special guests on the show, and, when he did, he had a knack for making them feel at home, too. By the time he finished the opening theme song, with the refrain, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” children knew they were in for something special.

What I loved about Fred Rogers was his demeanor and his innate ability to put anyone at ease, no matter where they came from or what their background was. When they spoke, he listened. He really cared about each individual, young and old, and the way he was on his show, was exactly the way he was in life.

I was lucky enough to meet him twice, and on one of those occasions we were on an elevator in a hotel in Miami. There were a few other people in the elevator with us, on that very hot, humid day. I recall muttering something under my breath about being exhausted and parched from the heat, though I didn’t say this to anyone in particular. But Rogers heard me, and even though he was heading off to the airport, with minutes to spare, he looked at me with concerned eyes and offered to go back to his room to fetch me a bottle of water. I was overwhelmed by this small act of kindness, though I shook my head, and declined as politely as possible, not wanting to be responsible for him missing his flight.

For over 30 years, Mister Rogers Neighborhood was a warm and welcoming place for children, featuring so many noteworthy people and interesting things to learn. San Diego is a fascinating place, too, with a multitude of voices, perspectives, interests and stories. Which is why, in homage to Mister Rogers, KPBS is pleased to introduce, Hey Neighbor!—a new blog about the people and events that make San Diego unique, and a place we call, our neighborhood.

Throughout the year, I’ll be featuring the stories of our local heroes, ordinary people who have achieved great things, because of a passion for giving back. Like the former gang member who wants to make sure kids have a place where they feel safe. Or the woman who set out to improve the quality of life for children and adults with physical disabilities, through sports and recreation.

I’ll also be looking for new stories to tell, of the diverse people, neighborhoods and events that make San Diego a robust and exciting place to live. Perhaps you have one you’d like to share, one you consider compelling and likely of interest to your San Diego neighbors. If so, be sure to contact me. After all, this blog is about San Diego and all the people who call it home.

This blog is about sharing and learning about our neighbors. And that’s why, I can’t say it enough:

Hey Neighbor! Welcome to the neighborhood!