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Won't You Be My Neighbor

I’m not good at long plane rides!  On a recent cross-country trip, I reviewed the limited movies offered and watched some spy movie.  I still had three and half more hours!  So, I started watching the movie about Mr. Rogers while working on something else.

My kids watched Mr. Rogers so I could cook dinner after work.  Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister whose calling was to create a “holy space” for the TV studio and the children watching on the other side.  His belief was that everyone has inherent value.  His show was one of acceptance and inclusion.

His belief was that everyone has inherent value.  He believed the most important thing about communication is listening…and often silence.  He listened with compassion to the child whose stuffed dog lost its ear in the wash.  He listened to the young boy with a spinal halo and confined to a wheelchair.  He listened to the child who was angry when the kids at school were mean to him because he was different.

Fred Rogers dealt with difficult topics and modeled acceptance and inclusion when the world did not.  The simple gesture of taking off his shoes to cool off his feet along with one of the African American cast members was his way of addressing the conflict about white people excluding black people from public swimming pools.  He talked honestly about things like death and war in a way that still made children feel safe and loved.

Fred Rogers sang, “It’s you I like, every part of you.” What is essential to life is invisible to the eye.  This is the invisible gift of love.

There is so much division, distrust and fear in our country and even in our families today.  During this holiday season (and all through the year) we can learn a lot from Mr. Rogers.  We can remember the importance of respecting, accepting and listening to one another even if we disagree.  We are all loved as precious child of God just as we are.

There is no price on the most important gift we can give each other this holiday season and throughout the year…the invisible gift of love.


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