Right Neighborly

The weekend found us returning to Cedar Hill State Park, this time to a site near the water’s edge. After enjoying a tenderloin steak grilled to perfection along with roasted potatoes, charred asparagus, and sauteed mushrooms and onions, we settled into a viewing of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” The 2019 biographical drama, starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as a journalist for Esquire magazine who is assigned to write a profile of the beloved television icon, is based on an actual 1998 article. The film was heart-warming and uplifting; and filled with empathy, humor, and even a bit of nostalgia.

It was the culmination of our “Mister Rogers tribute cycle,” which included a viewing of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”, the 2018 documentary about his life and career, and “Mister Rogers: It’s You I Like”, a PBS special commemorating the 50th anniversary of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Let’s just say we’re longtime fans of Mister Rogers, whose enduring legacy is his ability to orient the heart toward kindness.

When we were children, Mister Rogers and the characters in his neighborhood were constant companions. They gave us a glimpse of how transformative acceptance and penetrating emotional honesty could be. What we learned by our most recent watching and reading is that Fred Rogers was the genuine article: He was a gentle, caring man who saw children as important, his work as ministry, and human kindness as essential to humanity’s existence. Through his reassuring presence, and in ways unknown to us at the time, he helped us navigate many difficult moments in our young lives, including dealing with bullies, experiencing our parents’ divorce, feeling uncertain about our future, and going through frightening world events. And because he taught that each of us is special, he helped us accept our most closely guarded secret about ourselves.

Our take-away: Even though kindness and empathy are in short supply these days, it needn’t be that way. We can make a big difference by simply being attentive to — and mindful of — others; by embracing our own worth and by respecting the dignity of others; by feeling our emotions and then learning to control them. Mister Rogers taught us that being nice is not a weakness; and that speaking with care and acting with kindness are things we do simply because they make us more human.

We carried our conversation about Mister Rogers well into Saturday morning, and before we realized it we were beyond our typical brunch period. So we did something we rarely do: We went into town for lunch. Because it was National Margarita Day, we decided to visit Campuzano Mexican Food in Cedar Hill. The moderately priced house margaritas were fine, but the mixed-meat fajitas were fantástico! We returned to Cloud 9 for a long afternoon nap, followed by an exceptional campfire under starlit skies, and an aborted viewing of “The Irishman” (after about an hour, we simply admitted we were bored with it and went to bed).

Sunday found Cliff working on our taxes (we’re still trying to figure out how exactly we benefited from the most recent tax reform) throughout the morning while Jon continued shaking the branches of his family tree. An afternoon rain made for a wet departure, but it also signaled a seasonal shift. We’re advancing toward spring, and we’re eager to see what it brings.