About two months ago, my wife and I saw the preview for the Mister Rogers documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” We both cried… for the preview! Two grown adults in a movie theatre tearing up over a movie about a children’s television show host?!?
A one-line review perhaps explains our emotional response. “A movie for times just as these.” What times? Well… the airwaves are filled with language demeaning of women, actions that harm children and families, policies ruining the Creation, attitudes towards others different from us that are vile… and on and on and on. We cried because we need Mister Rogers or someone who will make decency, civility and neighborliness a virtue again.
The times we live in need more people like Fred Rogers
When the film itself was released we saw it. We had prepared ourselves to be emotional (“Did you bring the Kleenex?” my wife asked) but were surprisingly restrained until the end of the movie when Fred Rogers was reunited with a young boy (man) he had met many years before. This young person had a disabling physical condition and was touched by Mister Rogers compassion when he was younger. Now as a young man, he appeared at a tribute for Mister Rogers–unbeknownst to the TV host. That’s when we cried.
Why? Why at this moment? It was certainly an emotional moment for Fred Rogers, and those in the audience were moved. But us… in a movie theatre?
Decency, compassion, humility, humanity made us cry. Fred Rogers wasn’t perfect. Like the rest of us humans, he had his foibles and shortcomings. But Fred Rogers embodied “our better angels.” He lived his faith. His ministry was electronic and he touched millions with his neighborhood “church.”
The times we live in need more people like Fred Rogers. We need more decency, compassion, humility, and humanity. We need more neighbors like him, and we need to be good neighbors ourselves.
NOTE: Calvin Church will pay tribute to Fred Rogers at the 9:00 and 11:00 worship services on August 19th. Mister Rogers' songs will used throughout worship and Doug Gebhard will offer the message "Helpers."