When I was five, my mother would turn on the television every afternoon and flip to Channel 13, so that I could catch “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” Mr. Rogers always began with his trademark song, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which included the invitation:
Won’t you please…
Won’t you please…
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
As a kid, I silently answered, “Yes, Mr. Rogers.” What five-year-old wouldn’t want to live next door to this gentle man whose house was filled with trolley cars, a fish tank and a whole magical realm?
At that time, I had no idea Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian minister; and I certainly wasn’t aware that all his talking and singing about neighbors had its roots in someone else’s teachings.
Yet, of course, Jesus of Nazareth spoke a lot about neighbors.
One of the most famous examples is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In this story, robbers leave a man bloodied in a ditch. A number of people on that same road walk right by the injured man, but finally one traveler stops to help him. Then Jesus asks, “Which of these men was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
We all know the answer.
This week, as the terrible news and gruesome pictures came in from Boston, I have been hurling angry and sad questions at anyone in earshot: What is the world coming to? How can people do this to each other? How do I talk to my children about this?
Then, in the midst of my funk, my friend J.C. Austin reminded me of something Mr. Rogers said: “When I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
“Look for the helpers.” It’s another way of saying, “Look for the neighbors.”
In the immediate aftermath of this evil act, people quickly moved from being strangers to being neighbors. In fact, a great many people in Boston chose not to pass by their bloodied brothers and sisters, but stopped to tend to them.
In these courageous actions, the simple invitation, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”, proves to be stronger—much, much stronger—than the cowardly acts of those who would sow fear. In these holy deeds, we find strength and hope.
Join us this Sunday as we pray for those injured and those who grieve; and as we consider our calling to neighborly love in this challenging and sometimes very frightening world.