On #143Day, Pennsylvania shows kindness cannot be locked down

On Pennsylvania’s second annual 1-4-3 Day, residents focused kindness on first responders and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Keith Srakocic/AP
Fred Rogers, memorialized in here in Pittsburgh park statue, was the inspiration for "1-4-3 Day," a day of kindness in honor of the beloved children's television icon. Mr. Rogers, a Pennsylvania native, used 143 as his special code for "I Love You," based on the number of letters in each word.

Mister Rogers would have liked it: a day to be extra kind to your neighbors.

The day was Friday – Pennsylvania’s second annual 1-4-3 Day, an occasion when state officials encourage people to share their acts of kindness and gratitude. This year, a focus was first responders and essential workers who are at high-risk of contagion during the coronavirus pandemic.

The initiative began in 2019 when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf declared the 143rd day of the year a day of kindness in honor of the state’s beloved kindness patron and promoter, Fred Rogers, who spent most of his life in and around Pittsburgh. The number had special meaning to Rogers, reflecting the number of letters in his favorite phrase, “I love you.”

This year, the state launched a website asking residents to share their good deeds – from buying a meal for a neighbor to writing a thank you note for a mail deliver – under the hashtag #143DayInPA.

“Acts of kindness should be happening always, but this is a way where there is encouragement to track it, to share it,” said Gisele Fetterman, wife of Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor, John Fetterman.

She is the founder of the Free Store 15104, which provides free food, clothing, and other essentials to the community in Braddock, a small hardscrabble steel town near Pittsburgh. Since the store was forced to temporarily close during the pandemic, she has helped raise more than $20,000 in supermarket gift cards for people in need.

“My wife is a walking 1-4-3 every day,” said her husband, the tattooed former mayor of Braddock.

Growing up, the couple said they were inspired by “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” and its lessons of love, generosity, and kindness for kids and adults.

“For me, Mister Rogers is very personal, I learned to speak English watching Mister Rogers when I was a young immigrant in this country, never knowing I’d end up in Pittsburgh,” said Ms. Fetterman, who came to the United States with her family from her native Brazil as an undocumented immigrant and later became a U.S. citizen.

“One of my earliest memories was watching Mister Rogers on TV,” her husband said. “Fifty years later, that message is not only still relevant, but more relevant and necessary than ever today.”

Click the “show some love” button, and the 1-4-3 Day website offers suggestions on how to share kindness: “recommend a good movie to a friend; share the credit for a recent accomplishment; cook for your significant other; take your dog on a long walk; reflect on a moment when you overcame fear.”

The University of Pittsburgh also marked the day, recalled the legacy of Fred Rogers by highlighting acts of kindness in the local community.

“There are three ways,” the university said in a tweet, “to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind, the second way is to be kind and the third way is to be kind.”

This story was reported by the Associated Press. While nonstop global news about the effects of the coronavirus have become commonplace, so, too, are tales of the kindness. “One Good Thing” is a continuing series of AP stories focusing on glimmers of joy and benevolence in a dark time.

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