What do you do with the mad that you feel
When you feel so mad you could bite?
When the whole world seems oh, so wrong
And nothing you do seems very right?
To me, Mr Rogers and his long-running kids’ TV show are like Walmart or Twinkies – I get they have a really specific emotional resonance for Americans, but my experience is entirely second-hand.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t cry the whole way through the new Tom Hanks movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Fred Rogers died three years before Twitter was born. But his radical sincerity and tenderness (the filmmakers are betting) seem like exactly what the doctor ordered in our moment of outrage and cynicism.
Mr Rogers spoke to very small children in a way that took them every bit as seriously as adults, and to adults in a way that reminded them they were once children. He saw what most of us have forgotten, the torrent of emotions involved in being a kid – especially how much anger you feel – and the film gently implies that we’ve also forgotten how to deal with our anger without hurting other people, or ourselves.
“Let the little children come to me,” said Jesus, “and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” It’s the same Jesus Fred Rogers prayed to every morning, for a great number of children, and adults, that he knew or didn’t even know. He treated everyone, no matter who they were or what they’d become, as someone who was once a child, and remained a child of God.
This movie asked me a question I’m still chewing on: What are you doing with the mad that you feel? And how’s that working out for you?