The Radical Kindness of “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” | Love146
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Being a fan of Mr. Rogers, I’m pretty excited that a new documentary about him has hit the theaters. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” has appeared in the midst of a resurgence of interest in Mr. Rogers, fueled, I think, by a growing hunger for kindness in a world that has become increasingly angry and cynical. If you know anything about Mr. Rogers, you know his main theme was about the neighborhood — and about who the neighbor is. He insisted that we need to see those we would describe as “the other” as our neighbor, instead of drawing lines around ourselves and excluding people who are different, marginalized, or people we don’t understand or who even make us angry. He wanted us to get to a place where we see each other and treat each other as neighbors. In one of the first episodes of  “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” back in 1968, King Friday installs Lady Aberlin as a border guard, addressing fear of “the other” and keeping “the other” from entering the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. Mr. Rogers was way ahead of his time addressing outsiders with radical kindness and looking at what it means to be a neighbor.

Read the words of the theme song:
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
A Beautiful Day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beauty wood,
A neighborly day for a beauty.
Would you be mine? Could you be mine?

I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.
So let’s make the most of this beautiful day.
Since we’re together, we might as well say, would you be mine?
Could you be mine? Won’t you be my neighbor?

What radical words. What a powerful invitation.

Loving our neighbor is no easy or small thing. There are days that I struggle to see our global neighborhood as beautiful, considering the atrocities that the children we work with have experienced.

We began Love146 more than 15 years ago to do what we could to help make a safer world for children. I’m still stunned that children in our care, with all that they have been through, would still be able to see the neighborhood — and the world itself —  as beautiful.  We recently asked children in our care: “What makes the world wonderful for you?” Many of the responses took our breath away, but this one seemed incredibly apropos: “The clouds, sun, birds, trees, flowers, grass, mountains, and people showing love, generosity and treating each other as brothers and sisters.”

Somehow… these children get the concept of neighborhood — and understand what it means to not only be a neighbor but how to treat one. And that… makes me want to try a little harder.

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