Won’t You Be My Neighbor

I just watched a movie of this title about Fred Rogers, the creator of the long running children’s PBS TV series, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”.  I wasn’t interested at first because I thought I knew all about him and his show.  However, IMDB rates it 8.5 and I discovered a fascinating tale of a man with an inspirational commitment to the welfare of children and the child that resides in each of us.  It weaves a story about Fred Rogers, early children’s TV, PBS, and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood from real footage of Mr. Rogers talking about his beliefs and goals, commentary of his wife and two grown children, testimony before a U.S. Senate committee, and numerous clips and commentary of the actors, friends and staff from the TV series.

This is far more than just a story, it captures the depth of feeling and love that was the heart of Fred Rogers.  He thought the greatest thing was to value each unique child and help them know they are worthy of love and that it was evil to make them feel otherwise.  He was a Presbyterian minister and had a gift of understanding and communicating with children.  In the early years of PBS, a Senate committee had been organized to evaluate whether government funding should be extended, the Chairman was disgruntled with all the witnesses and their written statements.  The actual filmed interchange between Senator Pastore and Mr. Rogers is so sincere, virtuous and compelling that after just a few minutes the Senate Chairman turns and declares, “you just got your $20 million of funding.”  There is also very interesting footage of Mr. Rogers with Koko, a tamed gorilla that had been taught to communicate through sign language.

Mr. Rogers was able to reach the nation with a message of God’s love as taught in the Bible.  Each person is a unique creation of God and thereby worthy of His unconditional love.  Mr. Rogers put it in language children could understand, “I like you just the way you are.”  It is incredulous that many people objected and took offense to his encouragement of children, suggesting that he had created an entitlement generation, but that was a distortion of what he said and it’s clear meaning.

I believe you will be touched by this movie as you will see the virtue of children and those who are humble enough to love them in ways they can best receive it.  It was a compelling reminder to me of Yeshua’s words, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  If anyone causes one of these little onesthose who believe in meto stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18: 4-6).


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