I just watched the trailer for the Mr. Rogers Bio-pic; “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. It made me cry. Yes it was kind of sappy, but it made me cry because of the contrast between what Fred Rogers was all about and our world today.
I cried because like Fred Rogers I want my children, my children’s children and all children to know they have a place in the neighborhood. Just as important that their neighbors sincerely care and appreciate them. Right now that is not the case, in fact we seem to be afraid of our neighbors, especially if they don’t look and sound like us.
I cried because the church has not always been helpful in welcoming people into the neighborhood, in fact it has been a voice of prejudice and hate. Instead of opening doors to our brown and black skinned neighbors, we have built walls to keep us apart. We have put up signs that say; “Not on my lawn! Keep off! No trespassing! Private property!” Instead of being a welcoming presence in the neighborhood, we have been gatekeepers.
Fred Roger’s style was corny, old fashioned and well not me, but his heart was! People of all ages, backgrounds, colors, cultures and genders have felt the welcoming love of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood! The church should take a stroll down the street of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood to learn about what is means to be a neighbor. Lutheran’s talk about grace and openness, yet we are the most segregated church in North America.
When PBS first aired Mister Roger’s Neighborhood, it wanted to teach children who watch, what it means to be a neighbor. The goals were to show a community and its citizens as a place, a role model, for hospitality, acceptance, compassion and neighborliness. It was aimed at preschoolers and their siblings. I guess the Biblical line, “The children, shall lead them!” is most appropriate for our time, our nation and this church!
Hate is taught, but love is modeled, to care is human, to do violence to others is inhuman. There were no others, there were no them, there were only neighbors. On every episode, Fred Rogers answered the question; “Who is my neighbor?” The answer is all of us are neighbors to one another, no exceptions. One day this could be fully realized and wouldn’t that be a “Beautiful Day in the Neighbor” otherwise known as the kingdom of God.