Northwestern Press

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Another View

Wednesday, June 5, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood

“When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four.”

“It’s almost time to stop, so choose one more thing to do. That was fun, but now it’s done.”

“Will you pick me up when I go to school? Yep, at the end of the day because that’s the rule. Grown-ups come back.”

“If you can’t do it alone, work together. It’s better to work together.”

If you have a young child or grandchild, there’s a very good chance you have heard these lyrics from “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” a popular PBS children’s television show.

These songs are catchy for children, which isn’t a bad thing, given the lessons they teach to young ones — patience, kindness, responsibility, to try new things, to be brave and more.

They’re also catchy for my husband, Joe, and me. Sometimes, we intentionally say a lyric to each other in front of our son, Benjamin, to set a good example.

Unintentionally, we often find ourselves randomly singing or whistling a verse while folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher. The music genres we listen to have drastically changed since becoming parents!

The character of Daniel Tiger is a young tiger who has a mom, dad, sister and many friends. He attends school, goes on trips to see his grandfather, visits the carnival with family and friends and, because of all these adventures, learns many valuable life lessons, some of which are hard to grasp and follow.

But, eventually, with guidance and help from Mom Tiger, Dad Tiger, Miss Elaina, Katerina Kittycat and other characters, Daniel Tiger ends the show with recapping the lessons he learned and why it was important to learn those lessons.

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” first aired in 2012 and is still produced today. There is even a Daniel Tiger movie — “Won’t You Be Our Neighbor? — where new characters Jodi Platypus and her family members are introduced.

“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” is based on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which aired nationally in 1968 and continued until 2001. Its creator, Fred Rogers, was born in Pennsylvania and returned to the state, to Pittsburgh, in 1966 from Canada.

Viewers will recognize many similarities between the two shows, such as Rogers’ famous red sweater, easy-to-love songs and spirited characters.

On May 23, the 143rd day of the year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared this day 1-4-3 Day of Kindness in the state.

This was the first kindness-themed day for Pennsylvania, and its residents were encouraged to “embrace the spirit of the kindest Pennsylvanian, Fred Rogers,” a promo for the event on Facebook said.

In the May 23 CBSNews.com article titled “Mister Rogers honored with first annual statewide day of kindness in Pennsylvania,” those numbers are “a code that beloved children’s television star Fred Rogers would say to his friends in the neighborhood, and it stands for the number of letters in the words ‘I love you.’”

On Facebook, Wolf said, “As governor, I’ve met countless Pennsylvanians. And I know we’re genuinely nice people. Join me in spreading love today and seeing just how far a little kindness can go.”

There are close to 190 comments on Wolf’s post.

One participant explained she was going to “deliver a card to a family at a local diner that explains the day and pay for their dinner.”

Another said, “I think I’ll go to lunch today and pay for the person behind me in the drive-thru. Give them a nice day.”

My cousin Jennifer Stephens, who lives in Bucks County, said, “My student teacher came back to our school for field day and volunteered her time, so I got her a $15 gift card to Starbucks.

“I also bought my physical education teacher friend a large coffee from Dunkin’ to get her through the day.”

A little kindness shown goes a long way. That’s what Rogers was teaching those who tuned in to his show. He was also teaching to love one another, to share your feelings and to talk about difficult situations.

In one episode, Rogers talked with a young boy named Jeff Erlanger, who was in a wheelchair. Rogers asked him about how his wheelchair works and what made him bound to a wheelchair. They sang the song “It’s You I Like” together and talked about things they do when they are feeling sad.

In 1969, Rogers invited the character Officer Clemmons, who was an African-American, to cool down with him in his kiddie pool on a hot day.

The two shared the same water and the same towel, making this a powerful statement during a time of racial tensions and showing where Rogers stood regarding segregation.

FredRogers.org says, “‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’ is the longest-running program on public television.”

That truly says something meaningful about the impact Rogers, the characters and special appearances created and fostered on the show.

“I think what [Rogers] was trying to do was teach us how to be human,” said Morgan Neville, creator of the 2018 documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” in the CBSNews.com article.

Rogers provided something special for young children — a welcoming and accepting “neighborhood” — through music, visits and stories. His kindness radiated through television sets into the lives of children and their parents everywhere.

And today, thankfully, the vision of Rogers to create a world that is loving and kind is seen again in the life of Daniel Tiger.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Come along and be his friend.

Stacey Koch

editorial assistant

Whitehall-Coplay Press

Northampton Press

Catasauqua Press