As someone who has felt emotions very loudly my whole life, I consider it a privilege to have grown up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In case you’re unfamiliar, Fred Rogers was an American author, producer, Presbyterian minister, and television host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, an educational children’s television program that ran from 1968-2001 and taught children about difficult topics, managing emotions, getting along with others, and feeling good about themselves.
When I think of Mister Rogers’ influence, I am reminded of his speech when he accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
“So many people have helped me to come to this night. Some of you are here. Some are far away. Some are even in heaven. All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life.
Ten seconds of silence. I’ll watch the time . . . Whomever you’ve been thinking about, how pleased they must be to know the difference you feel they’ve made.”
The people that you think about are the ones that have had an incredible influence on you, have helped shape you into who you are today. Whether they are friends, mentors, bosses, teachers, neighbors, even passing strangers on the street… they are people who care about your success and care about showing you Jesus’ love.
Every interaction we have with others is an opportunity to spread love, acceptance, and compassion. Whether it was through his simple acts of kindness, his affirming words, or his gentle teaching, Mister Rogers touched countless lives, reminding us that influence is not limited to grand gestures, but rather it can thrive in the everyday moments.
“I wonder if we might pledge ourselves to remember what life is really all about—not to be afraid that we’re less flashy than the next, not to worry that our influence is not that of a tornado, but rather that of a grain of sand in an oyster! Do we have that kind of patience?” – Fred Rogers
There are people that will pass through our lives like tornadoes, leaving a lasting impact we will remember until the end of our days, and there are many, many more that will plant tiny grains of sand, leaving lessons and impressions we might not notice in the moment but will grow to become important values in our own lives like sparkling pearls. Here are three simple lessons we can learn from Mister Rogers to have influence in our own lives and at work:
- Be genuine: When reading stories about Mister Rogers or watching his program, a common theme you’ll find is that he treated children with real respect and curiosity. He asked questions and genuinely cared about their answers. He would get down to their level and look kids in their eyes. He wasn’t just trying to be nice or humor them; he had real concern for their feelings and wanted them to feel supported and heard. He showed his goofy side and wasn’t afraid to make mistakes. When you are genuine and authentic to your coworkers, clients, and customers, they feel safe to respond with their genuine selves.
- Treat others with kindness and respect: It takes an incredible amount of strength to be kind. Responding to conflict or negativity with gentleness and humility is hard. Everything goes back to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). When you treat everyone like a neighbor you’ve always wanted to have, it will foster a loving relationship of kindness and respect. There are moments that kindness can feel naive in the corporate world but it’s incredibly necessary to create a healthy culture.
- Show empathy and support: Understanding your own feelings and reactions to challenges makes it easier to think about how others feel when they are faced with hard things. Mister Rogers emphasized the importance of empathy, reminding us that kindness and understanding can transform lives. At work, we can make a difference by actively listening to our coworkers, offering encouragement, assuming positive intent, and providing a supportive presence. By being a source of comfort and understanding, we can inspire and empower those around us to reach their full potential.
Being genuine, kind, and gentle are incredible ways to become a positive influence and have our work be a testimony to our devotion to God. As you create relationships with your coworkers, clients, and customers, remember that everyone is your neighbor and you should love and treat them as such.