Mr. Rogers…remember him?
If you don’t remember Mr. Rogers then I really am older than I realized!
I saw this billboard a couple of days ago as I was driving along.
At first I chuckled, remembering what a nerd I used to think he was. Then I also remembered that I used to love his show! I bet I watched Mr. Roger’s neighborhood every week day when I was 4-5. I used to love the tours he took me on of factories. I specifically remember a tour of a candy making factory…ooh I loved that episode, it was magical!
I have always been inspired by these Pass It On billboards, like the one in the photo above…I’m sure you’ve seen them before. They have highlighted Einstein, Lincoln, Randy Pausch, Babe Ruth and others, each with poignant statements. I have always loved what they speak of and speak for.
So when my eyes caught a glimpse of this one with Fred Rogers, my very first response internally was to laugh. How sad, my judgment spoke up first. Then my very next impulse was one of tears as I read the message. Tears you might say?
Yes! Here is what went through my head, “Oh man, did Fred ever get THE message! As nerdy as I thought that guy was, day after day he took a stand for a message of love that we need to hear more today than ever before!”
And then what came next was this thought, “What if I look upon everyone today as my neighbor? Not a stranger, not a weirdo, not a nobody, but as MY neighbor? What if I actually give myself to what I say I believe, which is that we are all connected on this great earth, and all in need of kindness?”
Right as I was thinking that, this man drove by me. He was probably 80 or so, in a really old car, and he was very tiny. He had his arms outstretched clutching the wheel with his aged weathered hands. I felt such compassion towards him, thought my heart was going to burst. This is my neighbor!
And then the next person….an African American man, probably in his 20’s, in his souped up car, rap music blaring out the cracked window. This is my neighbor! Kindness, love, esteem, flowing from me to him.
And on and on the opportunities have presented themselves to me.
Even with my mother. She called me that same day and I answered in task mode. I hung up grieved because I missed a moment to be her neighbor, to extend authentic kindness, to listen to her, to inquire into her day. I texted later and apologized and gave love. She returned the love…it was beautiful exchange.
So why does all this matter anyway? Why should I heed the message of Fred Rogers in his red sweater?
It matters because I believe it’s what is at the core of who we are. We are created for relationship. We are created for the purpose of giving and receiving kindness, forgiveness, healing, goodness, charity, compassion, goodwill. There isn’t anything that matters more than this.
It’s not about how much money we make.
It’s not about impressing those we work with or live with.
It’s not about getting all the love I “need.”
It’s not about arriving at some place of success.
It’s not about getting my list done everyday.
At the end of the day, it’s really only about being someone’s neighbor…connecting so that we might be more aware, more holy, more true to our selves. That we might bridge the gap of separation and take up the shield of love. That we might love life and enjoy happiness.
I need this message today. There are neighbors all around me that I am missing. I am missing out on the gift that they are, that they could be for me, that I could be for them.
I am ready. I am excited. I am ready to love the one in front of me, be that my son, my friend, the stranger in line, the customer service rep on the other end of the phone, or the person I like the least.
Thank you Fred, thank you for your ageless call that has awakened me today.
Peace to each of you,