This week on “Bullseye with Jesse Thorn,” Jesse interviewed the creators of a new documentary about Fred Rogers. I, like so many others, was a huge admirer of Mister Rogers, a man of faith (he was an ordained Presbyterian minister) who expressed it in Christ-like love but without dogma. Every account I’ve ever read, seen or heard about real people meeting Fred Rogers – every single one – comments on how interested Rogers was in other people. Apparently, he made every person he met or talked to feel as if they were the most important person in the world to him at that moment. What an amazing legacy.
I haven’t seen this new documentary yet. I do recall seeing (and preaching about) an amazing PBS documentary a few years ago which told the story of David Newell. David Newell is better known to us all as “Mr. McFeely,” the speedy delivery man from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” After Fred Rogers’ death, Newell, in character, became the public face of the show, attending events hosted by public TV stations across the country and greeting the children who continued to watch “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in reruns. But I believe what Newell has dedicated his life to is not his former boss, but an idea – an idea about how to treat children, and how to treat each other as human beings. Fred Rogers (who, I am sure, was a sinful human being with flaws and foibles) lived his life in such a way that he became a powerful symbol of that idea.
Here is the extended version of Jesse Thorn’s interview with the documentary makers: