Fred Rogers was born on March 20, 1928. His birthday is not as widely known as other birthdays, such as Lincoln’s or Washington’s. Far fewer people celebrate Mr. Rogers’ Day than celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. And yet I think that it is well worth our time in times such as these to remember the question that started each episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

For Mr. Rogers had this hope that we could all be a part of making the world a better place for everyone if only we understood that we were all meant to treat each other as neighbors, caring for each other, helping each other, learning to love each other. For him, that hope sprang from his faith as a Christian, because in addition to being a children’s television host, Mr. Rogers was a Presbyterian minister. And while there are many expressions of Christianity, Mr. Rogers represented one that’s often lost in the noise of the “culture wars” and the political debates of these times. It is an expression of Christianity that understands that the central feature of the Christian life is to love our neighbors as ourselves and everyone is our neighbor.

“Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story,” Fred Rogers said. And maybe that sounds naive, but have we tried?  Have we tried to listen to others’ stories of what’s happened to them in life? Have we tried to create space where others feel safe to tell their stories honestly? Have we tried to love our neighbors, all of them, as we love ourselves?

March 20 is Fred Rogers’ birthday, and in times such as these, I wonder what kind of world it would be if we spoke less and listened more; if we considered less how to respond to each other and more how to understand each other; if we really tried to make it, for everyone, a beautiful day in their neighborhood.

–Pastor Don Steele

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