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How does our neighborhood compare?

March 17, 2003|By BECKY KERCHEVAL

The recent passing of Mr. Rogers was very sad to hear. He was certainly a quality, genuine, inspirational man who made many generations of children feel safe, positive, and accepted. Both children and adults can learn many valuable lessons from Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood. His recent passing caused me to consider how our society and our neighborhood compares to those of years past.

I can remember watching Mr. Rogers and feeling as if he were speaking directly to me, as I sat in the living room of my parents' farm house. Mr. Roger's Neighborhood was always very calming, comforting and consistent, all of which are important to young children. At the end of every episode, I was always left with a positive feeling and watched as he changed from his sweater back into his dress coat, then as he untied his sneakers, tossed them from one hand to another, and then slipped back into his dress shoes, and sang his closing song.

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I always looked forward to "seeing" him again the next day, learning new things, and watching as he went through his daily routines.

In Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the mailman always felt welcome and befriended at everyone's doorstep, neighborhood businesses welcomed you with friendly faces, neighbors often stopped by to visit and offer their help, and who could forget when the trolley took us to the land of make-believe? Now it's 20-plus years later and society continues to change. How does our neighborhood compare today?

Let's take a moment to consider these important questions: Do we work hard at providing safe havens for our children? Do we go the extra mile to help our neighbors and visit the elderly?

Do we support small businesses in our community? Do we smile at one another as we pass by or do we avoid eye contact? Do we empathize with the situations our "neighbors" are facing?

Do we allow our children time to make believe or are they constantly surrounded by noise, television, computer games and chaos? Do we accept those who are different than us? Do we model appropriate behavior for our children? Do we spend enough quality time with family? Do we take time to give back to our community/neighborhood?

Also, do we monitor the images and television shows our children are watching today? No longer does our society and television demonstrate a calming, comforting, consistent feeling for children. Instead, it seems as if there is chaos, confusion, corruption, and inconsistency. As a school teacher, I see the effects clearly every day. Quality television is certainly hard to come by anymore. I think many of us grew up with shows like "The Brady Bunch," "Mr. Roger's Neighborhood," "Sesame Street," "I Love Lucy" and "Leave It To Beaver." That was the "neighborhood" of years past and in today's neighborhood, "The Brady Bunch" has been replaced by "The Osbournes," "Sesame Street" is often outnumbered by more violent, fast-paced cartoons, and "I Love Lucy" is replaced by shows such as "Will and Grace." As an adult, I must admit that I sometimes watch and find humor in shows such as "The Osbournes" and "Will and Grace."

However, I was lucky enough to grow up with a generation where "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood," "The Brady Bunch," and "Leave It To Beaver" were the norm. I also had parents who taught me morals, values, respect, and the difference between right and wrong. My point is that because of these early teachings and positive influences, I am able to separate the humor in shows such as "The Osbournes" from its actual dysfunction. We must teach our children morals, values and respect, so they, too, can separate between what's right and wrong when they are faced with various situations.

Society is much different today and we need to help re-create the same feelings and the genuine, caring attitude that Mr. Rogers did in his neighborhood.

Everyone has a responsibility to the children today and to the growth and prosperity of our community. Everyone can do something positive to help make this a better place to grow up in and live.

We must all help support the children in our neighborhoods, especially those who live with difficult home lives and surroundings. Remember, each "neighbor" on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood had a distinctive personality and a unique way in which they contributed to the community. Now, we must take our unique personalities and contribute in a positive way to our neighborhood.

Becky Kercheval is a resident of Hagerstown.

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