How to Create a Great Day in Your Neighborhood

You know me, I oblige my husband about once or twice a year and watch a movie with him.  He told me he’d gotten It’s a Great Day in the Neighborhood especially for me, knowing it would be “my kind of movie”. It was.  

The movie is based on a 1998 Esquire cover story titled “Can You Say…. Hero?”.  In the movie, the journalist Tom Junod, fictionalized in the film as Lloyd Vogel, undergoes a transformation of world view through Mr. Rogers played by Tom Hanks.   Lloyd sets out to uncover Mr. Rogers as a fraud, and Mr. Rogers ends up changing his life in the process. 

About 50 minutes into the movie (46:03 to be exact if you want to watch it) Lloyd has a chance to meet Mr. Rogers’ wife.  He asks her, “So, how does it feel to be married to a living saint?”

Her response is profound, and I think it is the linchpin of the whole movie.  She says:

“You know, I’m not fond of that term. If you think of him as a saint, then his way of being is unattainable. He works at it all the time. It’s a practice. He’s not a perfect person. He has a temper.  He chooses how he responds to that anger.”

“That must take a lot of effort,” Lloyd says.  

She goes on: “He does things every day that help to ground him.  He reads scripture.  He swims laps. He prays for people by name. He writes letters-hundreds of them. He’s been doing that since I met him.” 

Mr. Rogers approaches and gives his “love” a kiss and tells her he will be a few hours. Then he turns to Lloyd and says,  “Lloyd, I thought we’d spend some time together.” 

Throughout the rest of the movie you see him spending time with Lloyd.  Talking to him, helping him reconcile with his dying father, and coming to terms with what it means to be a father who didn’t have a positive father figure in his life.   

And you see him swimming his laps, praying for Lloyd and his family members by name, and writing letters. 

In almost all leadership training series that we do, we cover a portion called Personal Leadership.  It’s about being able to lead yourself before you can lead others. This allows you to serve others and influence them through your behavior.  In this, we talk a lot about what you can control (your behavior) and what you can’t (almost everything else) through the lens of Stephen Covey’s circle of control versus circle of influence.  We talk about focusing on what is important, not just urgent, and focus on creating habits and maintaining them in order to produce outcomes and results.  

I think from now on, I may just show It’s a Great Day in the Neighborhood instead of talking through all these concepts to illustrate the impact that personal leadership can have on our ability to influence others. 

It may not be swimming laps or reading scripture, praying for people by name, or writing letters.  But, I would venture to guess that there are probably three to five things you can do daily that will have the greatest positive impact on your life, and in turn, will help you have the greatest positive impact on others. 


What do you need to do today and every day to create a great day in your neighborhood? 

Mary Ila Ward

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