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What We Can Learn from Mr Rogers

I may be dating myself with this example, but you may recall the name Fred McFeely Rogers. He born in 1928 and died of stomach cancer in 2003 - an ordinary man, born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, earned a bachelor's degree in music began a television career at NBC in New York, ultimately worked for children's programming at NET. Later, with a degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, he became a Presbyterian minister, and the world came to know him as Mr Rogers.

He was the creator, showrunner, and host of the preschool television series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 to 2001. I can recall watching him growing up quite regularly.

What you may not know is that Rogers had a difficult childhood. He was shy, introverted, and overweight, and was frequently homebound after suffering bouts of asthma. He was bullied and taunted as a child for his weight and called "Fat Freddy".

According to one director of the 2018 documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? She said, Rogers had a "lonely childhood ... making friends with himself as much as he could. He had a ventriloquist dummy, he had [stuffed] animals, and he would create his own worlds in his childhood bedroom".

Perhaps that’s why Mister Rogers' Neighborhood emphasized young children's social and emotional needs, focusing on children's developing psyche and feelings and sense of moral and ethical reasoning. And perhaps it's why his show and influence is still popular today.

Weaving together his Christian faith and good psychology, I think Mr Rogers is the perfect example when reflecting on the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians, the tenth book of the New Testament. It's a letter that declares that the Christian mystery of salvation, first revealed to the Apostles, is the source of true wisdom and that salvation through Christ is offered to Jews and Gentiles alike.

The letter encourages us all to lead exemplary Christian lives and to arm ourselves with the “shield of faith,” “the helmet of salvation,” and “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”, in order to resist the wiles of the devil. Those sentiments today are captured in the words:

Brothers and sisters:

Be kind to one another, compassionate,

forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Or, more contemporarily, in the words of Mr Rogers:

There are three ways to ultimate success:

The first way is to be kind.

The second way is to be kind.

The third way is to be kind.

Let that be our focus this day!


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