Won’t you be my neighbor?


When I was a little boy I loved to watch “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” with my brothers and sisters.  We would gather around the TV and sing along with Mr. Rogers as he sweetly crooned, It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood.  A beautiful day for a neighbor…Would you be mine, could you be mine?  Won’t you be my neighbor?”  We would sing with passion and fervor as we sought to be the loudest.

 

Little did we know that Mr. Rogers was equipping us with a desire for Christ’s grand call to neighborly love.  With little more than a creative spirit and a desire to love the little ones, Fred Rogers shaped and molded a generation with the teachings of Jesus—without any of us knowing what he was doing.

Mr. Rogers did not trick us, nor did he infiltrate our hearts and minds with deceptive ways in order for us to eagerly listen to him.  Mr. Rogers shaped us with love—a deep, profound love that allowed us to approach him as “equals” and offered us an interpretation of the “Good News” that placed us squarely in the middle of community, relationships, and a vibrant world.

 

In his neighborhood, Mr. Rogers fed us with lessons and stories rooted in morality, theology, and transformation.  I (and countless others) have been transformed by his most simple and profound question:  “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

I look to the Gospel accounts that inspire Mr. Rogers’ message—Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12: 28-34, and Luke 10: 25-28—and I am filled with awe and humility at the way Mr. Rogers taught us.  He never shared that he was a Presbyterian minister.  Mr. Rogers never used fear to propel us towards a redeeming relationship with God.  Mr. Rogers loved us.  Mr. Rogers loved us where we were and for who we were.  Mr. Rogers loved us and this compelled us to search for answers in his neighborly manner when the neighborhood got a little rough.

Mr. Rogers taught with compassion as he invested in the future, realized today.  He recognized the beauty and blessing of all that crossed his path.  There were no bad days, no persons too far-gone to be loved.  To Mr. Rogers, redemption was already there, only his response of love remained to be fulfilled.

I, too, am like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.  I have a mission, a purpose.  I seek to be part of a community that openly affirms all who hear the voice of God, “come and follow me.”  I seek to be a part of a community where all become disciples and seek understanding of truth and wisdom.  I seek to be like Mr. Rogers and extend the call to neighborly practice.  I seek to be transformed as I work to transform my community in the Spirit.

I believe the Gospel to be transformative when I enter into relationship with its main character, Jesus.  When I witness the beauty and am “neighborly” to others, I am truly transformed.  It is my hope that I may expand my understanding of neighborhood.  That I will be known for my neighborly habits of love, justice, and service to the global community.

May I be a blessing to our neighbors as I wrestle with whom my neighbors are and how I may respond in love to them.  It is indeed a “…beautiful day in this neighborhood.  A beautiful day for a neighbor…Would you be mine, could you be mine?  Won’t you be my neighbor?”

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