It never is too late to confess. Never did I follow him. Never did I appreciate him. He seemed so superficial in my brief times with him on TV. Only recently have I realized how wrong, insensitive, and judgmental I had been over the years.
Only recently have I bemoaned what I missed in all the years. To whom do I refer? None other than Fred Rogers, TV icon, Presbyterian pastor, creator of the children’s TV program Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Unimpressed as I was with his cardigan sweaters and tennis shoes which seemed so immature, I totally missed the caring, compassion, and creativity of the deep faith he shared with the kids in his “neighborhood.” He had an insight on how to speak of present-day realities (i.e. assassinations, racism) to help children – and us adults – grapple with life-changing and life-challenging experiences.
All of this has come to me as I read the story of the making of the movie, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” which was released just this past June 8. This is not a documentary about the life of Fred Rogers. It is a telling of the values and ideas and convictions of a man of faith who helped generations get in touch with how to live by the grace of God.
We all have heard about “random acts of kindness.” Fred Rogers reminds us that only by acts of “radical kindness” will the world be changed. Kindness cannot just be “random” (as in casual) to be effective. Kindness must be the “radical” (as in root, core) value of our daily life experience with each other.
Thank you, Mr. Rogers, for finally getting God’s message through to me. Now, all I have to do is find a theater where the movie is playing.