“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!

I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.”

Fred M. Rogers

Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the long-running children’s program on PBS, taught viewers important messages about feelings, learning, and who we are. Mr. Rogers was all about caring for others, appreciating what we already have, and about seeing the best in people. His emphasis was on relationships with others in our neighborhood, which falls right in line with the mission of The Hopeful Neighborhood Project.

March 20 brings the annual tradition of celebrating Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day, honoring Mr. Rogers on his birthday. It’s the perfect opportunity to share appreciation for the people in your neighborhood. In episode after episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Mr. Rogers demonstrated a caring appreciation of the people in his neighborhood, just the way they were. He saw the best in people. He took the time to thank neighbors for their work, the time they dedicated to their work, qualities they possessed, and just for being themselves. Appreciation, thankfulness, and gratitude can change a group of people living in proximity to each other into a hopeful, caring neighborhood.

For Won’t You Be My Neighbor Day 2022, you can practice thankfulness for your neighbors. We all already have ideal neighbors. All we have to do is add appreciation. Here are a few strategies for practicing neighbor appreciation:

  1. Write it. Open the Notes app on your phone and type out something you appreciate about a neighbor. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Our actions all begin as thoughts, and by writing a bit of appreciation for a neighbor, we train our brains to think about what’s already good. The more we practice thinking about gratitude, the more we feel gratitude.
  2. Say it. Tell someone (a neighbor or someone else) one thing you appreciate about your neighborhood. Again, even a simple thing will do. It’s all about training your mind to give attention to what is already going well in your neighborhood. Saying it out loud requires a bit of thought in order to decide what to say. That thought process is what develops appreciation for your neighborhood.
  3. Think about it. If you don’t have the bandwidth in your life right now to write out or speak to what you appreciate about your neighborhood, that’s okay. Simply taking the time to think about what you like about your neighborhood can strengthen your appreciation “muscles.” When you look out the window, or walk out of your front door, take a minute to think about one thing that’s pretty great about your neighbors. It will help your appreciation grow.

Often, Mr. Rogers would bring an item to share on the show and ask, “Did you see what I brought?” Sometimes it was something new, but often it was a familiar object, and he would invite viewers to look deeply at the everyday item. When we look deeply at our familiar surroundings, we will notice more to appreciate about our neighborhood. It can be simple things, like a neighbor’s routine to walk her dog early every morning, or how another neighbor carefully puts out his trash. See the good that is already there.

As Mr. Rogers taught, we don’t have to go searching for a perfect neighborhood. Our current neighbors are already Dream Neighbor material. All it takes is appreciation. The appreciation for our neighborhoods that we nurture in ourselves will help us see the goodness that is already there, the goodness that Mr. Rogers saw in others. What do you appreciate about your neighborhood? What is something you like about a neighbor?