Reflection Masthead
Issue 177 - Mr Rogers' Neighborhood - June 2018

Come along with us into Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. We were swept away into the Neighborhood watching the current documentary movie. Won't you join us? 
          Every time I open the book, "The World According to Mister Rogers," I see a random quote that shoots a volt of familiar warmth through my heart. I pause. Memories take me back into the "Neighborhood" and I hear Daniel Striped Tiger (Fred Rogers' voice), or Officer Clemmons singing opera, or Neighborhood Trolley tooting along the tracks to and from the Neighborhood of Make Believe. Fortunately, our boys, Trey and Wade, grew up with Fred Rogers and I usually was on the couch with them every afternoon at 4:00.
          Fred Rogers' messages of personal value, self-worth, and kindness are surpassed only by his gentle warmth and welcoming personality. Didn't every kid want to live in that neighborhood? And many adults too? I did! When he said, "I like you just the way you are" I believed him. I can only imagine what our world would be like today if each child and each adult sat down every day to watch just one episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This video reminds us why we need Mr. Rogers now more than ever. 
          In the documentary showing at theaters now, small snippets and short scenes are enough to remind us of the importance of living together in kindness in our neighborhoods. Fred Rogers didn't shy from trauma, misfortune, or challenges but rather, led with gentle steps through to a resolution. He said, "When I was a boy I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'" Rogers never mixed up reality and fantasy. Neighborhood Trolley would take you from one place to the other. Perhaps it's time to visit that neighborhood again.  --Jan

Too Nice?
Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister. In the 1970s, that fact was a source of embarrassment to some of my fellow students at a Presbyterian seminary.
They tended to be students committed to social justice. Some of them came from active participation in the anti-war and civil rights movements of the 1960s. At least one fellow student's name was on Richard Nixon's "enemies list," because of his anti-war activities.
For some of them, Fred Rogers' great sin was that he was just too nice. Christians, they felt, were called to aggressively confront evil, to challenge the powers-that-be.
Put in the terms of classic Reformed theology (although I don't remember any of them putting it this way), Mister Rogers seemed to deny the doctrine of human depravity, to ignore the need for human repentance, as he told each child that he liked them, "just the way you are."
But Fred Rogers knew something of human depravity, as it is experienced by many children. A chubby pre-teen, Rogers was teased about his weight. As someone in the movie explained, "Without 'Fat Freddy,' there never would have been 'Mister Rogers.'" (How much did the name-calling hurt? Throughout his adult life, Rogers weighed himself daily, thrilled to announce that he kept his weight at exactly 143 pounds.)
"Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" made its own stands for social justice, in its typical quiet way.
One scene, from the 1960s, shows Rogers sitting with his bare feet in a child's inflatable wading pool, spraying his feet with a water hose, talking about how good it feels on a hot day. The neighborhood policeman comes by and Mister Rogers invites him to take off his shoes and socks and join him with his feet in the pool. The neighborhood policeman was African-American, and at a time when many American swimming pools (not just in the South) were restricted to whites only, Fred Rogers made his own stand for social justice known.
When all is said and done, Mister Rogers was not simply about being "nice." Fred Rogers, the Presbyterian minister, was advocate of mercy, grace, and love.
-- Bill

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Copyright (c) 2018 Soul Windows Ministries


Bill Howden and Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries



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