Luke 10:27- “He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Fred Rogers lived out the Word rather than preaching it. His simple question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, was the beginning of relationship. When he ventured out into the world and was greeted warmly with gratitude by anyone he would say, “Were you (are you) a neighbor?” An embrace and invitation to intimate conversation usually followed. He would say things like, “Do you want to tell me what is (or was) troubling you?” Blessing people with the power to choose and to share seemed to come naturally to him.
Growing up I was definitely NOT a neighbor. Now I see how seamlessly Mr. Roger’s message is really Jesus message. According to Fred, “Love is at the root of everything – all learning, all relationships – love or the lack of it.” He spent his life loving others well. (1 John 8- Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.) Recently I’ve begun to notice how he addressed hard topics. He did not speak about right and wrong. He chose to meet children in their pain and validated their feelings. He reminded children that their parents loved them even when separated by divorce. He addressed their fears when life got scary. He used his song writing talents to help children understand that it is OK to be angry and to foster coping skills and self-control. He made time to listen to a sick child when she was afraid she would not survive an upcoming surgery. He spoke with kindness to the one and the many.
I’ve watched the documentary on his life and have streamed hours of interviews on YouTube. I find myself blessed and inspired by all the ways Fred lived for Jesus. His wife shares one of their last conversations. Fred pondered aloud, “Am I a sheep?” Her response, “if anyone is a sheep, you are.” For some, this question seems troubling. Does he doubt his salvation? Is he questioning his worthiness? I do not think so. I believe he left us with one more example of something we should all consider when we speak with Jesus. Today I ask, “Jesus, am I living as a sheep?” Won’t you join me neighbor?