Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was practically a religious experience when I first saw it. I had tears in my eyes for much of the film, not because of sadness, but because I was watching pure goodness.
The film delves into the life and philosophy of Fred Rogers. One key moment of the film shows a simple act, when he shared a small wading pool with a black cast member. This act took place against the backdrop of the Civil Rights movement, and no one watching it at the time could have been ignorant of its implications. Fred Rogers saw himself as teaching social and psychological skills to children, to help them handle intense emotions and difficult situations in life. He wanted all children to know that they were loved and capable of loving.
It also does not shy away from his deep religious faith and vocation as an ordained minister. His widow tells the story of Fred Rogers, at the end of his life, meditating on the parable of the sheep and the goats. The sheep are welcomed into the Kingdom because they cared for “the least of these,” feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick, and visiting the imprisoned. The goats neglected these tasks, and they are not welcomed into the kingdom. Fred asked his widow, “Do you think I am a sheep?” His widow answered that if he was not a sheep, then no one is.