“Won’t you be my neighbor?”
It is hard to find an adult born in the ‘70s, ‘80s or ‘90s who doesn’t have some awareness of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the beloved PBS show that aired from 1968-2001. I grew up before Netflix, Hulu or other streaming services made viewing options endless for children. All we had was a pair of rabbit ears and a few basic channels.
I wanted to be Mr. Rogers. I would walk through my bedroom door, sit on my bed, take off my shoes and put on my sweater. Mr. Rogers gave me license to imagine. He gave me license to play. And he taught me how to be kind.
When I watched Mr. Rogers, it felt like he was talking to me. When he asked me to be his neighbor, I wanted to respond with a resounding “yes!” To him, a neighbor wasn’t just the person next door. A neighbor was a fellow human sharing the collective experience of life on this planet. Whether across the street or on the other side of the world, we were all his neighbors.
This way of thinking is entirely biblical, which is probably why children resonated with him so much (children have a unique way of grasping biblical truths even when they can’t articulate them fully). We want to feel like we matter. We want to feel like we are part of something. We were made to be neighbors and to be loved by neighbors.