The Life-Changing Lesson Tom Hanks Learned From Mr. Rogers

As simple as Fred Rogers‘ persona was on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for decades, there was a lot of complexity behind his messages of kindness, individuality, and creativity. When Tom Hanks portrayed him in the recent A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, researching Fred Rogers was a huge eye-opener for him, despite Hanks being one of the nicest people in Hollywood.

Perhaps it’s because showbiz has been overcome with cynicism and become embedded into everyday reality that finding deeper insights to Rogers’ approaches was so enlightening. What Hanks found out was a deep philosophical course on how to live life and in how to treat other people.

Of course, the film opens this up for further discussion, though what Hanks learned goes beyond the film’s message.

Rogers became a ministry of kindness

Tom Hanks on the Today show
Tom Hanks | Nathan Congleton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

Screen Rant recently compiled a list of things Hanks learned from Fred Rogers, even though the two had never met personally. Ironically, Rogers was a big fan of Hanks (Forrest Gump his favorite film), so one could almost imagine the sweatered one passing on understanding from the great beyond. Add in the surprise they were related, distantly.

Thanks to Hanks’ intelligence, he was able to really understand Rogers to his core, something other actors might not have caught on to. One of the most important things learned was how Rogers made kindness a form of ministry without bringing religion into the picture.

Everyone knows Fred Rogers was an ordained Christian minister, yet he didn’t preach any spiritual beliefs on his show. He simply practiced what amounts to being a good Christian. Practicing without preaching was one of the most brilliant ways to make kids feel like they were important.

It’s worth thinking about how revolutionary this kind of approach was for children’s TV in the 1960s and ’70s when the world of ministry and children’s programming were two separate entities then.

It’s possible Fred Rogers found the true meaning of life

The things Hanks learned from his research really starts to add up to a bigger picture when seeing the complete list. More people might eventually realize Fred Rogers was one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers who managed to find what life is really all about.

Most of that is in bringing joy to people and making them matter. This also means having a little fun, no matter how mundane the task. From Hanks’s perspective, he considers this a natural order to things, something others in our world have probably lost as times become more troubling.

Maybe it’s impossible to ensure a good day happens every day, but maintaining the attitude Fred Rogers had about the wonder of life will often reflect on others and make any day better.

Mr. Rogers had a roadmap to heal ‘broken people’

A common term heard in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is “broken people”, something seen in the main character, Lloyd Vogel (who’s based on journalist Tom Junod). It really is remarkable Rogers seemed to have a radar to those who’ve gone through something awful in their lives and help them find a roadmap to repair things.

Hanks went back to research the famous “Look for the Helpers” line from Fred Rogers and how everyone should look for the helpers when things seem to be out of control.

Such an insight was more than true and that society almost always steps up when a mass tragedy occurs. People help other people in times of need, and especially children, no matter how cynical those people might be before the tragic event happens.

Because this was one of the biggest epiphanies for Hanks, it’s worth pondering if he’ll apply this and other Mister Rogers lessons into his own life and movies.

In more recent years, audiences have certainly seen Hanks be one of the helpers in providing insight into the human condition with his movies, hosting duties, and producing numerous insightful documentaries on our past.