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That time Mister Rogers comforted me in real life

May 26, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT
In our NewsHour Shares moment of the day, in the aftermath of the terror attack in Manchester, writer Anthony Breznican took to Twitter to recount how the late television icon Fred Rogers of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” comforted him during a difficult period in his own life.
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NewsHour shares web small logoIn our NewsHour Shares series, we show you things that caught our eye recently on the web. What about you? Leave your suggestions in the comments below, or tweet to @NewsHour using #NewsHourShares. We might share it on air.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now to our NewsHour Shares, something that caught our eye that may be of interest to you too.

In the aftermath of the terror attack in Manchester, England, writer Anthony Breznican took to Twitter to recount how one person comforted him during a difficult period in his own life. That man was Fred Rogers, of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

Breznican recently spoke with us via Skype about the lessons he learned during a chance encounter with the late TV icon.

ANTHONY BREZNICAN, “Entertainment Weekly”: My grandfather had died not so long ago, and he was sort of this one steady constant in my life, and a really positive influence.

And when you don’t have a lot of those to being with, to lose one is really devastating. So, I was going through a hard time.

One afternoon, or morning, I was leaving the dorm, and I heard a familiar song coming down the hallway, won’t you be my neighbor. And I kind of stuck my head into the commons room, and there on the TV was Mr. Rogers.

One of his favorite things was to talk about, what do you do with the mad that you feel?

FRED ROGERS, Host, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” (singing): What do you do with the mad that feel, when you feel so mad, you could bite?

ANTHONY BREZNICAN: You know, a way of helping kids deal with their anger, acknowledging it, instead of telling them that they shouldn’t feel it.

And it was like, this speaks to me. I’m very angry. I’m very scared. Even as a young adult, like this — it didn’t feel like a kids program. It felt very profound.

Within about two weeks or so, I was at the school paper and I got into the elevator to go down to the lobby, and the doors opened, and standing there is Mr. Rogers himself.

I turned around and said, like: “Look, I just want to tell you how much you mean to me.”

And he said — he didn’t say like, thank you, I appreciate that or anything. He was just like: “Oh, did you grow up as one of my television neighbors?”

And just the way he said it was so sweet.

And I was like, “Yes, yes, I was your neighbor.”

And he gives — opens his arms and he is like, “It’s great to see you again, neighbor,” and he just gives me this big hug.

And it felt so wonderful to meet him, but also to literally be embraced by Mr. Rogers, this kind man.

FRED ROGERS (singing): I will be back when the day was new.

ANTHONY BREZNICAN: And he sat down and he said, “Would you like to tell me what it was that was upsetting you?”

And just the say he said that, too, is so indicative of Mr. Rogers. He didn’t say, oh, what was bothering you? He said, “Would you like to tell me?”

And I did. And it helped so much just to have someone to talk to. It wasn’t just a persona that he put on for this program.

The program grafted itself onto his personality, his real soul, his real heart.

It was the night of the Manchester bombing, and I think the whole world was just wondering how someone could do something like this. And that quote that he gave repeatedly in interviews about his mother telling him, if you see something awful, look for the helpers, find hope among the helpers, the people who are rushing in to save those who are hurting.

And I saw that meme, like a photograph of him with that text shared again and again by different people online. And that just got me thinking of this memory of how Mr. Rogers was kind in real life.

I don’t think anybody could ever fill Mr. Rogers’ shoes. We can try. But he was one of a kind. And once in a lifetime means once in a lifetime.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Thank goodness for reruns.

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