“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood…”

If you are anything like me, when you hear that phrase your ears perk up. Then, you are instantly transported back to being an 8-year-old sitting in front of the TV. 

I have always had very fond memories of Mister Rogers. Most of them include sitting with my Grandma watching him explain how to make peanut butter (I don’t know why that episode in particular has always stayed fresh in my mind). However, if I am being honest, he didn’t leave a lasting impression on me until I was in my mid-twenties.

I remember sitting in a movie theater back in 2018 watching the documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (fantastic film, I highly recommend it). The whole documentary is about Mister Rogers’ life, and I went with a group of my friends to see it. I honestly thought it was just going to be a nice walk down memory lane, but it actually turned out to be so much more. . .

The documentary is mainly about how Fred Rogers impacted several generations of people, and it got me thinking, “how is that possible?” He was one guy talking to little kids with a stuffed tiger while wearing a sweater and Keds. How could he have impacted thousands of children?

Then I heard Mister Rogers say this: “Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.” That’s when the water works started. I sat in my theater seat looking up at the huge screen, and I realized it’s because he “loves people just the way they are. . .” and I believe that everyone needs someone to tell us that from time to time – that someone loves you just the way that you are. To not try to change you or tell you all your faults, just tell you that you are loved for your “being” (a person made in the image of God) and not your “doing” (what have you done for me lately?).

That’s when I started thinking, who else loves us this way? Jesus. He loves us with a love that is totally unselfish, and loves us without expecting anything in return.

Like it says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-6, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 

Mister Rogers loved people without judgment or condemnation, and seeing how generations of people responded to him reminded me that this world is starving for the love of Christ. People are searching endlessly for “love.” They are looking for someone to love them without fear of judgement or condemnation.  And Mister Rogers gave it to them. That’s the secret to his widespread fame and respect. 

The world needs the love of Christ, it is desperate for it, but it also needs more people like Mister Rogers. 

As I left that movie theater, I felt strangely convicted. I looked at my own life and realized that I don’t love many people. Like….truly love them. Sure I love the people that I like and get along with, but I don’t love people unless there is something in it for me. My love was and still is selfish. . . and loving people isn’t easy. Yet in Mark 12:31, the Bible tells us, “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” We are called to love everyone, even the people we don’t like. 

Loving people as Christ loves us is impossible without God’s help. That’s why Jesus told His disciples they would be known as Christ-followers because of their love for one another. Love. It is the sign of God’s transformative power at work in our lives. 

I recognized since then that God has placed people in my life that I don’t necessarily “get along with” and I can hear God telling me, “love them, they need it, they need someone, and you are that someone”¦” So, I strive to be more loving, to be more like Christ and love people just the way they are. 

I have a long way to go, but I won’t let that keep me from spending another day in the neighborhood, another day trying to be a neighbor. 

So I will leave you with this: won’t you love your neighbor?