It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood. A beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine? Could you be mine?
OK – time to take a break from the Kavanaugh FBI investigation and think about something uplifting for a few minutes! 🙂
I’m officially back in NYC after a beautiful time at home in Ohio.
One of my favorite parts of being at home, is being able to spend quality time with my parents. After my mom’s stroke, I’ve really come to appreciate just how a) fragile life is, and b) how precious the time is that we have with our loved ones.
So honestly, my favorite moments are just when we’re hanging out together, enjoying an evening bourbon outside under the stars, or hunkering down with a bowl of popcorn and a Netflix movie in our jammies.
Well, this last trip, we ended up watching the Mister Rogers’ documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor.
And if you receive my newsletter then you will recall that I mentioned this excellent documentary as one of my film recommendations earlier in the week.
But this film so profoundly moved me that I just had to share it with you.
We need more people like Fred Rogers in this world.
This man’s life was a gift. Using his life to teach children (and adults) the true power of kindness from the 60s to 2001, on his iconic television ministry: Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Fred Rogers, who himself was an ordained minister, was showing people how to live a Christian life, one sweater at a time.
But that’s enough back story. You don’t need to read a book report on how incredible of a human this gentle man was.
I want to talk about why Mister Rogers matters today. Right here. Right now.
One of the things his show was famous for, was the way it tackled current events, and the delicate and gentle way he explained them to children.
During its prime time, the world was a scary place, with wars and assassinations, and segregation and racial tensions and riots.
Mister Rogers was constantly challenging those fears and prejudices, simply through the actions of a good neighbor: welcoming people into his home and sharing a meal – or sharing a swimming pool – with his neighbors, no matter the color of their skin, or beliefs, or what have you.
He was there to love people. All people. And that message spoke volumes.
This country has come a long way since Fred Rogers. And not in a positive direction. The concept of a “good neighbor” has become all but irrelevant in today’s world. Neighbors have become political opponents, depending upon which yard signs ends up on their lawn come election time. Or we’ve become so scheduled and busy that we hardly even know who our neighbors are!
And children’s programming has become so sad. One of the beautiful things about Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – is that Fred was a real man. And he brought on real people and real kids. Kids that a child viewer could see themselves in. So as the child on TV was learning and loving and practicing kindness, the child viewer could personally relate, and felt personally invested in the lesson.
Nowadays, everything is animated. So yes, the kids are still getting the “lessons” or “morals” of the story — if there is one — but it’s not as personal to them, because it’s through the eyes of a talking fish, or a talking animal, or a cartoon of a child with wildly disproportionate body parts.
And the “live action” shows that are available for kids nowadays are frankly garbage! The Disney Channel has completely given up on decency, in my opinion. Now, the kids are all snarky as all get out. They’re mischievous, catty, and most storylines revolve around “duping” their parents, who are portrayed as dopey — and frankly idiotic — buffoons. Not to mention the overly sexualized and suggestive clothing they have the little girls dressed up in.
It honestly is so sad. Just take a look at young kids and how they speak to one another and to their parents, and you’ll see the results of such irresponsible programming. We’ve created a bully culture — in person and, perhaps more detrimentally, online.
The world needs more Mister Rogers.
There was this beautiful moment in the documentary that was an interview with a young Fred Rogers — probably in his early forties. And he said,
“The greatest thing we can do is teach people that they are loved and capable of loving.”
What truth in that.
What happens when we approach people from a state of love? What happens when we choose to live our lives in a way that welcomes all people, and choose to look for the good in everyone we meet? What happens when we look for common ground that brings us together and builds bridges?
What happens when we ask, “Would you be my neighbor?”
One of his most iconic scenes was when he was having a conversation with a little boy with spina bifida. Fred was talking to the little boy in his wheel chair, and just showing him so much kindness and love. And this little boy was just lighting up. He felt seen. He felt known. He felt loved and valued. It brought me to tears. Because isn’t that what we’re all looking for?
Fred taught us – through the simplest of examples – to see people the way Jesus sees us: with dignity and value. Fred was loving his neighbors precisely the way Jesus instructed.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is so much to learn from Fred, the good neighbor.
And it makes me wonder, what would Fred say about the state of the world today? What would he say about social media, and the political division in our country, and the rampant culture of use and abuse, as evident in the #MeToo, #TimesUp, Tinder hookup era in which we live?
Kindness. He’d answer with kindness. He’d challenge us to consider: How can we act and speak in a way that communicates to every person that crosses our path, that he or she is loved and capable of loving?
I started this blog to create community — a community of hope and love that encourages and builds one another up as we journey through adversity and through life. That is my prayer every night as I pray for each and every one of you.
So hopefully, when you visit here, you can say, in the words of Mister Rogers:
It’s such a good feeling.
A very good feeling.
The feeling you know that we’re friends.
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