Updated: Jan 6
In December, Mary and I saw the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a movie about Fred Rogers and investigative journalist Tom Junod. In the last two years there have been two movies about Fred Rogers. Why? After all, he has been one of the more ridiculed persons in the last few decades – Saturday Night Live, Johnny Carson, National Lampoon, Family Guy, Jimmy Kimmel, the list goes on and on. Yet, in our increasingly uncivil and partisan world, people today are longing for something better, something kind, something that shows concern for others (neighbor). This is what meek Mr. Rogers passionately promoted.
In every episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers sang his ideal of how we should treat one an-other: It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you A beautiful day for a neighbor. I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?... So, let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together we might as well say: It's a neighborly day in this beauty wood, Would you be mine? A neighborly day for a beauty. Could you be mine? Would you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor? Could you be mine?... Won’t you please, Won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbor?
Jesus said something similar, something we hear every Sunday: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:37-40. “Neighbor” is a word we need to rediscover! Your neighbor is not just the guy next door. That person is your “next door neighbor.” Your neighbor is the person next door, the Facebook friend hundreds of miles away, and even the person who may be out to get you!
Fred Rogers agreed to be interviewed by Tom Junod, knowing full-well that Junod had a brutal reputation as an investigative reporter for exposing every weaknesses of those he interviewed. Rogers didn’t see Junod as an enemy or someone to fear, but as his neighbor, someone to listen to, care for, and love. As Junod discov-ered the real Mr. Rogers, he found what his heart longed for, reconciliation, forgiveness, and compassion. They became life-long friends. The Rev. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister, promoted and practiced the love of neighbor that Jesus commanded us. I firmly believe the world will be a better place if, instead of be-rating our neighbors, we love them and ask them “Won’t you please? Please won’t you be my neighbor?” Yes, even those whom you might initially see as enemies.