He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it.
This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.
That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.
Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."
They absolutely do!
The sweetest little neighbors
The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.
"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.
Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on
The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.
"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.
Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.
A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers
The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.
The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)
The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving
The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.
"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.
"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.
Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.
Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today
There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.