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Won't You Be My Neighbor

    

Published 2018-07-12



Mister Rogers

Marcia and I saw a great movie the other day, Won’t You be My Neighbor, a documentary about Fred Rogers, the creator and star for 30 years of PBS kid’s series Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. 

David Brooks, a columnist for the NY Times recently wrote:

“The power is in Rogers’ radical kindness at a time when public kindness is scarce.... But there’s also something more radical going on. Mister Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Once, as Tom Junod described in Esquire magazine, Rogers met a 14-year-old boy whose cerebral palsy left him sometimes unable to walk or talk. Rogers asked the boy to pray for him.

Junod complimented Rogers on cleverly boosting the boy’s self-esteem, but Rogers didn’t look at the situation that way at all: “Oh, heavens no, Tom! I didn’t ask him for his prayers for him; I asked for me. I asked him because I think that anyone who has gone through challenges like that must be very close to God. I asked him because I wanted his intercession.”

And here is the radicalism that infused that show: that the child is closer to God than the adult; that the sick are closer than the healthy; that the poor are closer than the rich and the marginalized closer than the celebrated.”

I was too old to have admitted that I was a fan of Mister Rogers when I first discovered him in the early ‘70’s. I used my little brother, Dan, as an excuse and always insisted that I was only watching Mister Roger’s Neighborhood with Dan.

But now I am not ashamed to admit that I have had Mister Rogers picture hanging over my desk since he died in 2003.  And it seems to me now more than ever in this divisive time that the world needs more than ever for us to be kind, generous and to remember the commandment Jesus cited as the second most important, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  And in case there was ever any doubt, Jesus made it clear that everyone lives in his neighborhood.  Maybe there is no better way to follow the commandment than to go out each day with Mister Roger’s invitation in your heart, “Won’t you be my neighbor….”


Jim

 




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