If you haven’t seen ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,’ God may surprise you by speaking to your heart through it in ways you weren’t expecting.
The song, “It’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” written and sung by Fred Rogers, seems to speak to the hearts of people everywhere. The words come easy for children like my daughters who grew up watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a children’s television program taped in Pittsburgh from 1968-2001.
And the same is true for parents like me, too, who sat or worked nearby to hear what he was teaching our little ones. His simple, lovely lyrics begin with:
“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?”
His words invited us all to be his neighbor and to live in his neighborhood, offering us unconditional love and acceptance just as we are, without even knowing us first.
Rogers’ friendly smile and gentle ways ministered to countless children and parents around the world, including us. So when our family recently watched the now-on-DVD film, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, we looked forward to seeing a more candid look at his life and learning more about him as a person.
Based on a 1998 Esquire magazine article titled, “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod, it looks at the life of Rogers, the host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers and Matthew Rhys as Lloyd Vogel, its release grossed 67 million dollars worldwide at the box office. TIME magazine listed A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood as one the top ten movies of 2019, and Hanks was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, Critic’s Choice, and more.
Surprised by the Storyline
I had low expectations before viewing the film because I felt unsure of Hanks’ ability to capture the kind and gentle persona of Mister Rogers. And although, in my opinion, he isn’t able to truly exemplify the inner qualities and wonder of Rogers, he does better in the role than I expected.
So to my surprise, I was soon quickly drawn into the storyline of a cynical investigative journalist, Lloyd Vogel, assigned to write a 400-word article on Rogers. Pushed to interview Mister Rogers by his editor, a very reluctant Vogel sets off to profile one of America’s most beloved children’s television hosts.
At first, Vogel is clueless and very unimpressed with Mister Rogers and his “Neighborhood of Make-Believe,” not understanding the appeal and premise of puppets and humans interacting in a pretend world. But as the film progresses, we see a relationship develop between Rogers and Vogel in this two most-unlikely-to-become friends scenario.
Surprised By Its Depth
Surprised by the depth of the storyline, it didn’t take me long to get past Hanks’s interpretation of Mister Rogers and have my heart warmed by the kindness, compassion, patience, forgiveness, and understanding being played out in the movie.
In real life, Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian pastor who some say viewed his show as a sort of pulpit ministry outreach to children. Although the film offers a short sound bite of Hanks praying for people by name, along with mentioning prayer several times, it only offers hints about Rogers’ faith in God.
Still, I was surprised by how deeply the film touched my heart, moving me to tears at times. Even now, it’s still inspiring me to reach out to people with more compassion, kindness, and understanding. It’s encouraging me to have more grace, gentleness, and love in my interactions with others. Its effect on me was totally unexpected but very much welcomed.
I welcomed being encouraged to be more thoughtful and gentle in my responses to others—in like manner to Mister Rogers’ responses to Vogel’s curt remarks and questioning. Through his example to be more appreciative of the questions and opinions of those around me, I’ve started taking into consideration how I can learn and grow from their observances.
Also, I welcomed seeing more clearly how my loving those who at times may come across as less-than-loveable has the power to change their lives. I was inspired by how Mister Rogers didn’t turn away from Vogel in his anger and pain but rather drew in closer to him—and in seeing how God can work through unconditional love to help navigate others through the challenging process of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Like Matthew 22:39 nudges us to, “love your neighbor as yourself,” so does A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Surprised By God’s Remarkable Ways
I also found myself surprised by the remarkable way God can reach out through a secular Hollywood movie to touch hearts and encourage us to love each other more. It’s always amazing to me how much He can communicate and accomplish through humanity’s flawed communication and labors. Of how He can make the most of even the littlest opportunities springing forth out of our imperfect efforts, to move and work in countless ways in people’s lives.
After watching the movie, I read Junod’s original article. Although the film softens and rearranges things around a bit, it seems to capture the essence of his findings, and the impact his interviewing Mister Rogers had on his own life.
If you haven’t seen A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you might want to take the time to do so. Because like me, God may surprise you by speaking to your heart through it in ways you weren’t expecting.
Welcome to Ungrind!
Do you want to be inspired, motivated, and equipped to live the everyday story of your life well?
If so, you’re in the right place. Whether you need encouragement in your relationships or in your faith, I hope you’ll find the transparent voices of mentors and friends here at Ungrind.
So, grab a cup of coffee and keep reading. We're so glad you're here!
Ashleigh Slater, Founder & Managing Editor
Get Our Free Ebook!
3 Ways to Navigate Personality Differences
Sometimes personality differences can wear on us. Here are three ways we can navigate them in a loving manner.
Surprised By ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’
If you haven't seen this film, God may speak to your heart through it in ways you weren't expecting.
The Wedding Ring
Are you struggling in your marriage? Here's how a wedding ring helped one wife fight for her marriage.
5 Ways to Live an Out-of-Control Life
Here are 5 ways to let go of control and trust your present and your future to God.
5 Creative Places to Find Prayer Accountability
Do you want to pray more, but are easily distracted? Here are some practical ways to stay focused.
How to Rescue a Day Gone Wrong in Your Marriage
Just because a day doesn't start well, doesn't mean you can't rescue it.
How To Change Your Life in 10 Minutes
Here's how you can change your life with a simple 10 minutes a day.
What Women Are Saying
-- Jenny Schroedel, author of Naming the Child: Hope-filled Reflections on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death
"Real life is not always pleasant. Every marriage experiences disappointments, misunderstandings, sickness and financial crisis. Ashleigh doesn’t camouflage the pain in her own marriage, and offers practical ideas on how to walk through the difficulties and find intimacy on the journey. If you are anything like me, I predict that as you read, you too will find yourself laughing, wiping tears, and saying 'Oh, yes.'"
-- Gary Chapman, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The 5 Love Languages
We are a member of the Amazon affiliate program and regularly use affiliate links. If you purchase an item from an Amazon link we provide, we will receive a small referral commission. This doesn’t cost you anything additional. We only share books, music, and products that our writers personally have used and highly recommend.
Faith4 years ago
When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds
Motherhood4 years ago
Surviving a Strong-Willed Child
Faith4 years ago
7 Ways to Create A Family Altar
Friendship5 years ago
Beyond the Registry: The Ultimate Gift Guide for Expectant Parents
Relationships2 months ago
5 Ways to Teach Your Child to Hear God
Marriage6 years ago
4 Reasons I’m Not Facebook Friends With My Husband
Everyday Faith4 years ago
6 Simple Ways to Give Thanks in the Thick of It
Articles5 years ago
10 Ways Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
Articles7 years ago
How to Lift Up the One You Love
Articles5 years ago
Relationships6 months ago
Facing Our Motherhood Fears
Digging Into Scripture2 months ago
How the Psalms Speak to Our Emotions