Home > WHO LOVED YOU INTO BEING? A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

During his 1997 acceptance speech for his Daytime Emmys Life Achievement Award, Fred Rogers mesmerized folks when he made the following remarks: “Would you just take, along with me, 10 seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are? Those who have cared about you and wanted what was best for you in life. I’ll watch the time.” In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers stated the question as “who loved you into being?” 

During his delivery of the University of Pittsburgh’s 1993 commencement address, Fred Rogers asked those gathered to pause and reflect on who had “loved them into being,” who had contributed significantly to their lives.  My thoughts turned to my father who served as a balm when I suffered from an extreme case of speech anxiety. 

At Mount Sinai Baptist Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, we grade school children were asked to recite brief lines of verse during Christmas and Easter programs.  Prior to the Church programs, I had memorized my lines and recited them several times to my parents.  Nevertheless, when I walked to the front of the Church, terror struck!  I seldom uttered more than 1 or 2 words before my throat went dry; I began to tremble; I had a strong urge to urinate; I was unable to speak; and it seemed as if the most horrible thing was about to happen to me.  I stood frozen as tears gushed from my eyes.   My father started singing a hymn; walked to the front of the Church; picked me up, and I recovered in the comfort of his arms as well as his whispering, “love you son.”

My father and mother never let me forget that I was “Russell and Grace Daniel’s child” as well as a “child of God.”  They made me believe “everything was going to be alright,” notwithstanding the working poor circumstances we endured as a family.  My peers teased me when I wore my older brothers’ not completely worn out shoes and other “hand-me-downs,” but my parents made it clear to me that “the price of the hat ain’t the measure of the brain,” that when it came to what mattered most, being a good person, I was just fine.  Coming up the back side of the mountain in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, I did not know that my parents’ unconditional love would contribute to me earning my Ph.D. at age 26 with, of all things, a major in Speech Communication. 

 A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood does an excellent job of showing how one is “loved into being,” how individuals and families are helped to actualize themselves, and why providing such love is especially important when someone is in pain as was the case with Lloyd, one of the movie’s main characters.   One reviewer described the situation as follows:  “…As a journalist for Esquire magazine, Lloyd has seen his share of ugly days in ugly neighborhoods. He’s been through third-world shantytowns and blighted apartments.  …At one point, Mr. Rogers tells Lloyd, ‘There is no normal life that is free from pain.  …Even Mister Rogers has suffered. Even he grieves. Even he—Mister Rogers, the kindest, gentlest person to ever grace a television show—gets angry.’  He talks to Lloyd about how sometimes he feels like mashing all the low keys on his piano down—hard. “BOMMMMM! He growls for effect. All of those emotions are real and important. We all can be sad or scared or angry. These emotions, in themselves, are not wrong.  It’s what we do with them—or what we undo because of them—that matters…” https://www.pluggedin.com/movie-reviews/a-beautiful-day-in-the-neighborhood-2019/

Fred Roger’s appreciation of the deep significance of “loving one into being” reminds me of the African philosophy Ubuntu, i.e., “I am because we are and because we are I am.”  As explained by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ubuntu: “means my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in theirs (other members of society). We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “a person is a person through other people.” It is not “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong.” I participate, I share.” https://walkoutwalkon.net/south-africa/ubuntu-i-am-because-you-are/

For those interested in learning more about the significance of “loving you into being” and Ubuntu, I highly recommend that they go see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood because, as Edgar A. Guest wrote,   

I'd rather see a sermon

than hear one any day;

I'd rather one should walk with me

than merely tell the way.

The eye's a better pupil

and more willing than the ear,

Fine counsel is confusing,

but example's always clear;

…And the lecture you deliver

may be very wise and true,

But I'd rather get my lessons

by observing what you do…;

The movie provides powerful examples of what Fred Rogers did in terms of loving others into being.


Jack L. Daniel

Co-Founder, Freed Panther Society

Contributor, Pittsburgh Urban Media

Author, Negotiating a Historically White University While Black


December 7, 2019

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