The unassuming Fred was, of course, better known as "Mr. Rogers" and he had a ground-breaking television show for children called "Mr. Rogers' Neighbourhood".
Every show began the same way with the neatly attired Mr. Rogers entering his home, taking off his jacket and shoes and putting on a trademark red zippered sweater that has since been donated to the Smithsonian Institute. As he slipped into comfortable tennis shoes he would sing his theme song "Won't You Be My Neighbour." The song started out like this...
|Fred Rogers and his favorite hand puppet.|
"It's a beautiful day in the neighbourhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be min,
Could you be mine?"
And it ended...
"Won't you be my neighbor
Won't you please, won't you please
Please be my neighbor."
When Fred Rogers died about 12 years ago, he had millions of "neighbours" all over the world, yet he never thought of himself as a TV star. In his typical soft-spoken manner he insisted that he always thought of himself as "a neighbor who just came in for a visit." He knew what it meant to be a good neighbour and he wanted to demonstrate that for his young audiences.
It was not commonly known that Fred was a music major and that he graduated from seminary as a young man. He was in fact an ordained Presbyterian minister who found his true calling in shaping the minds of children through his creative and unique television neighbourhood.
In my spiritually-motivated days as a lay minister with the unmitigated gall to preach to small community and rural church congregations, I often used Fred Rogers to introduce the Story of the Good Samaritan who stopped at a roadside to rescue a man who had been badly beaten by robbers. The injured man had previously been ignored by a Priest and a Levite who feared religious reprisals if they stopped to help him. The Samaritan did not ask questions, he did not care who the man was...He just tended to the man's wounds and took him to safety. The Samaritan was truly history's first documented good neighbor role model.
The world is full of people today who are in desperate need of a neighbour. Just as the Good Samaritan in the parable related by Jesus Christ, you and I are called to "go and do the same." In other words, help those who need your help...regardless of who they are, or where you might find them along the way.
Kind of sounds like another good New Year's resolution, doesn't it.