Blog, blogs, Influencers Devotionals

“Will You Love Your Neighbor?” by Bryan Craig

May 7, 2024

“There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.” Mister Rogers

 I wonder how many of you out there remember Mister Rogers.  You know, the man on TV who would come home from work and start singing a song, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor.  Would you be mine?  Would you be mine?”  While he sang, he would take off his work Blazer and put it in the closet and exchange it for a red cardigan zip-up vest.  He would also take off his dress shoes, gleefully tossing them in the air and then putting on his more comfortable tennis shoes.  If you have never seen this show, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” I’m sure you are thinking it sounds pretty “cheesy”, and it was, but I can tell you that Mister Rogers mesmerized and inspired children for decades.

Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister who found his pulpit on public television.  He preached not so much with words and quoting scripture, but by a demonstration of unconditional love.  And he had a special heart for children.  At the time he came on the scene, the only TV programming for children was silly, and sometimes violent cartoons or slapstick comedy with clowns throwing pies into someone’s face.  He had worked with children and believed them to be a neglected group in our society.  He knew that children had deep feelings, fears, concerns, and they were not unaware of things going on in the world, even big events like the Vietnam War, and he wanted to be a calming voice that could speak directly to them.

He created some characters, including an imaginary world with puppets, through which he communicated life lessons, always centered around love.  For example, back in the 60’s there was an incident where black families were banned from swimming at a public pool and caused quite a stir in the news.  Mister Rogers, soon after, had an episode where he was in his backyard, cooling his feet in a little swimming pool.  Officer Clemmons, who happened to be African American, comes by and Mister Rogers invites him to take his shoes and socks off and stick his feet in the pool.  As you watch this scene unfold, it is as if Mister Rogers is washing this man’s feet.  It is such a powerful scene, especially in the day in which this was broadcast.

This gentle, soft-spoken man, who would play the piano and sing, possessed a supernatural strength that absolutely came from his faith.  Let me share a few more powerful quotes from Mister Rogers:

“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”

"I hope you're proud of yourself for the times you've said 'yes,' when all it meant was extra work for you and was seemingly helpful only to somebody else."

"To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now."

“Try your best to make goodness attractive. That’s one of the toughest assignments you’ll ever be given.”

“All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we’re giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That’s one of the things that connects us as neighbors—in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver.”

So why is Mister Rogers featured in an Influencers devotional?  I believe Mister Rogers so fully exemplified a life of abiding in Christ.  He lived out his faith well.  He got his life mission from his Lord Jesus who said:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-40 ESV

I remember wondering if Mister Rogers was really that loving and nice or if it was an act for TV, and I was blessed to see the documentary about his life a few years ago, called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” available on Netflix.  I was so touched by this, and it was great to learn that Fred Rogers was the real deal.  I then read a book about his faith, called “The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers,” written by a dear friend of his, Amy Hollingsworth.  It, too, was inspiring.

Mister Rogers, like few I’ve seen or known, lived a life of unconditional love for everyone he met.  Though he was ridiculed, criticized, misunderstood, he continued to love.  His love impacted hundreds of thousands of children who needed a friend and someone who understood them.  His love even saved Public Television as he spoke before Congress and helped them receive national funding.

I believe God inspired Rocky to create The Journey process so we could help people understand how much God loves them and so, to help them express this love to those around them, starting with their own families.  Isn’t that truly what the world needs?

So, how are you doing?  Do you know how much God loves you?  Are you abiding in His Love?  If so, are you loving your neighbor?  Will you love your neighbor?  Who is your neighbor?  Mister Rogers would say it is everyone God brings across your path.  That’s a lot of neighbors. 

And you may be thinking Mister Rogers sounds like Gabe, from Journey to the Inner Chamber.  Yes, Gabe had a principle of life to “embrace his world with a sacred responsibility and express the love given him by Jesus to those God brought into his life, whether they were good or bad.” 

If you needed an example of a real-life Gabe, now you have one.  Now go be one.