It’s you I like
The way you are right now
The way down deep inside you…

Fred Rogers “It’s you I like”

Instead of firing up the Xbox for several million rounds of Overwatch after the kids went to sleep tonight, I decided to finally watch “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. I’m not too proud to admit that I cried through most of it. I loved Mr. Rogers Neighborhood when I was growing up. The Neighborhood of Make-Believe was my favorite part of every episode, somehow it honored imagination, storytelling – which was always important to me.

But what struck me tonight – even more than Mr. Rogers’ connection to Daniel Tiger and the alter-egos that his puppets could represent – was the way “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was his ministry in the world. I’d heard that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister, but I didn’t understand what that meant until I watched this. And as a fellow seminarian, trying to work through what my ministry will be, I was inspired. Ministry doesn’t have to be the obvious, preaching from a pulpit, it can be something more. As Rev. Wirth said in the film, “it wasn’t a sermon, like an oratorical thing, it was a communication right into their hearts.”

Max King said, “His Christianity was a wide-open Christianity that was accepting thinking from all other places, while never departing from the Christian faith. His theology – love your neighbor and love yourself. He saw that communication as the most deeply spiritual thing he could be doing.” I am not Christian – but I resonate deeply with his theology.

Love your neighbor, and love yourself. It feels so simple, but in practice it’s not easy at all. How do we love the neighbors on NextDoor who criticize our generators and fires in our fireplaces and our dogs barking at squirrels? How do we love the neighbor who cuts us off on the highway? Which is not even touching the more complicated neighbors who hold beliefs we find abhorrent? The neighbors who find us abhorrent for who we are or who we love?

Loving ourselves – also easy to say and yet much more difficult to do. Here we are smack in the middle of The Holidays – that space in between Thanksgiving (in the US) and Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, and the New Year – and we are full of self-criticism. We judge ourselves for how we eat, how we decorate (and when), for the perfect memories we make for our kids or the lack there-of, for the gifts we buy or don’t, the relatives we visit or don’t… have we accomplished enough in the old year? And have we made resolutions for the new?

I feel my own ministry calling to echo that of Mr. Rogers. How to communicate the message “love your neighbor”, “love yourself”… how to share the deep kindness that Mr. Rogers shared? Our world is so in need.