It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the new movie starring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. The story is loosely based on the relationship Mr. Rogers had with real-life Esquire magazine reporter Tom Junod. In the movie, the reporter (fictional movie character Lloyd Vogel, played by Matthew Rhys) is assigned to do a story on Mr. Rogers. Vogel objects; he’d been hired to do investigative journalism, he said. But his editor insisted. Vogel had anger issues; all his previous profiles had turned into hit pieces. None of the other subjects for the Esquire article would agree to speak to him. The editor thought that talking to Mr. Rogers might do Vogel some good.
Grudgingly, Vogel set off to interview Mr. Rogers and get the assignment over with. But Mr. Rogers refused to be rushed. He gave Vogel the same undivided attention that he gave to everyone, even if it meant getting behind in production and frustrating the studio crew. Mr. Rogers was far more interested in Vogel’s life story than in talking about his own. Like he did with the children watching his show every day, he wanted to help Vogel deal with his emotions.
Did Vogel have a favorite toy growing up? “You were a child once, too,” he said.
Vogel was incredulous. Could Mr. Rogers really care that much? And about him?
Slowly, the movie begins to reveal some of the sources Mr. Rogers’ profound grace.
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood isn’t a Christmas movie, but it is a story of grace and love. Like the grace and love that came down at Christmas.
God was a child once too.