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Building a thriving community, one ‘everyday interaction’ at a time

May 22nd, 2024 Back to Browse Stories

By Tonya Reeves, Director, PEDALS Michigan

The life-changing lesson Mr. Rogers taught me

As a child, I would sit in front of our television and watch an older man with a red cardigan sweater open the door of his home and walk into a simply decorated living room to greet me, his friends and neighbors. His demeanor was calm and pleasant, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. In fact, sometimes, I would get bored watching it because it seemed slow and disengaging.

I didn’t realize that he was teaching me, that I was learning how to relate to everyone I encountered in the simplest way — building a solid relationship with my neighbors and friends by utilizing the simple interaction skills he demonstrated on every episode. It was plain to see that everyone mattered to Mr. Rogers. Everyone mattered, no matter who you were, where you lived or your occupation.

I could not have fathomed that watching how he formed relationships influenced me and how I built my own strong connections, which led me to where I am today. Now, the little Black girl who used to sit and watch Mr. Rogers on her television screen is the Director of Positive Emotional Development and Learning Skills (PEDALS) Michigan, utilizing his Everyday Interactions Matter (EIM) model for our infants and toddlers program.

Through relationship building and coaching, our PEDALS team has learned that utilizing the EIM model has allowed educators to observe and reflect upon powerful moments of connection, reciprocity, belonging and opportunities to grow in life’s simple, ordinary tasks. EIM encourages the teachers to stop and look at what they are doing with their little ones, what they say and how they interact with them. Caregivers and educators are not just changing a diaper, feeding them a bottle or rocking them to sleep; they are holding a precious work of art and are responsible for molding and shaping them into a fantastic human being.

I am grateful for the work I get to do each day supporting our PEDALS coaches and encouraging teachers to understand that interactions are rewarding. Because of the care and time they take to feed, change and caress the infants in their care, the children will grow up to have a sense of stability and love. In turn, they will create communities where everyone feels stable and loved.

The PEDALS Vision

Our vision is to create a community where every child feels valued and connected, and our values emphasize the importance of relationships, empathy and growth.

PEDALS is proud to be a supporting organization of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan.  The Community Foundation shares our principles, and, together, we are committed to fostering environments where children can thrive.

With this partnership, we can enhance our ability to support educators and caregivers, ensuring that the foundational relationships built during early childhood are strong and meaningful. This alignment with the Community Foundation strengthens our commitment to our community, reinforcing that, just as Mr. Rogers believed, everyone matters and every interaction holds the potential for positive impact.

As we remember Mr. Rogers today on World Kindness Day, we invite you to take a moment to reflect on how everyone can incorporate the Everyday Interactions Matter (EIM) mindset into daily life. Every interaction you have holds the potential to build a foundation of love, stability and growth, not just for children, but for everyone around us.

Here’s how you can start:

  • Pause and connect: Whether it’s with your family, friends or colleagues, take a moment to truly connect. Listen actively, engage with empathy, and show that you care.
  • Be present: In our busy lives, it’s easy to rush through interactions. Slow down and be fully present, recognizing the value in each exchange.
  • Practice gratitude: Acknowledge and appreciate the small moments of connection. Express gratitude for the people in your life and the roles they play.
  • Model kindness: Demonstrate kindness and patience in your interactions, setting a positive example for others, especially children, to follow.
  • Reflect and grow: Regularly reflect on your interactions. Consider what went well and what you can improve to foster stronger relationships.

By embracing Mr. Roger’s EIM mindset, you can help create a world where everyone feels valued and connected and can thrive together. Share your experiences and inspire others to do the same. Together, we can make every interaction count.

It’s through relationships that we learn best and grow best.”
– Fred Rogers

Learn more about PEDALS and EIM