“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” -Fred Rogers

I ended 2019 and rang in 2020 watching “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the movie about Fred Rogers, who was an advocate for children throughout his life. Reflecting on the messages spread by Mr. Rogers during his 33 years on TV provides me with hope for our future.

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at [email protected]

Our world could use more people like Mr. Rogers. He continuously radiated the power of hope and kindness throughout his life. Fred taught us that to be our best selves we must cultivate kindness by stating, “There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” I hope we will continue to support each other in becoming our best selves – the people we were created to be.

To instill kindness in our children, Mr. Rogers reminds us that “you and I must do all we can to encourage the producers and purveyors of all mass media to help us raise children who will reject violence and cruelty – reject it because somehow they have become aware at the deepest levels of their being that they are lovable, not because they’re big and loud and noisy, but because they’re one of a kind.” Our world would be a better place if acts of cruelty and rudeness could be eradicated and replaced with kindness and civility. Holding the microphone near the loudest and squeakiest needs to be transferred to quieter voices of wisdom that value the power of reflection.

Mr. Rogers stressed that rejecting violence and cruelty is paramount to keeping our children safe. As 2019 ends, school violence weighs heavily on all of us, with at least 11 shootings occurring in American high schools and college campuses last year. School violence must end in order for us to feel safe when sending our kids to school. My hope is that our students and community know we are doing everything we can to provide safe schools for our children to grow and learn. To keep one another physically and emotionally safe, it must be a shared responsibility – through the words we exchange and in our daily acts toward one another. Mr. Rogers encouraged us to “stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.” We must promote acts of love, peace and justice by welcoming newcomers to our communities and by creating safe school environments where each student is valued.

We only have one life to live on Earth. Although we live in times that often feel scary and unpredictable, it’s vital for each of us to recognize our value to our community, our family and our friends. As Fred reminds us, “Some days, doing the best we can may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front – and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else. You are the only person like you in the whole world.”

As we gear up for the year ahead, let us pledge to be transformed by love and kindness in our neighborhoods. And may each of us do our best to change the world around us, creating a better tomorrow for our children and future generations. If we fulfill that promise, it will be a beautiful day in our neighborhood!

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