I read that Rogers held the plaques and items in office as a representation of what was significant for him (Hamilton, 1994). Rather, I see them as a portrayal of the character of the man behind the show: he loved God, knew his identity in Him and showed Christ’s love in his walk. I view the three plaques on his wall as especially revealing. One plaque had a quote in French from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s work, the Little Prince, which translated “What is essential is invisible to the eyes.” Another showed Song 6:3 transcribed in Hebrew, “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” A third displayed the single word, agapé, meaning love. His character traits, centered in Christ’s love, hold the essential foundation for building relationships in brotherhood with one’s neighbor.
Jan Paron/June 6, 2012
Rogers, an ordained minister with the Presbyterian Church, lived his life based on passion for producing constructive children’s television programming. I believe that he saw the latter as his purpose and sought to fulfill it during his television career. Once Rogers remarked,
“I certainly remember how good it felt to be ordained with a call to work with families through the media, because that could bring together many of the interests God had given me…You know, when I decided to look for work in television, I couldn’t possibly have known how I would be used. I’ve simply tried to be open to the possibilities God has made available to me” (Rogers, in Hamilton, 1994).
His sense of purpose influenced the contribution he made to the nature of children’s television.
Rogers looked at the needs of the child for centrality of program design. He wanted to tend to the inner-most feelings of children. This thought inspired him, “The question is not, ‘What can we sell children?’ or even ‘What can we give them?’ It is ‘Who are they?’” To accomplish this end he used language and song. Dorothy Singer, Yale University child psychologist, says that he “talks real-life issues and puts them in a language a child can understand.” Mr. Rogers spoke slowly and gently in way that invited trust. During my children’s early formative years, Rogers very much was a part of their lives as they spent time with him though his daily show. He spoke right to them in a way that made them feel like next-door neighbors who would join him for milk and cookies. They had joined Fred Rogers’ living room.
The theme of love and trust flowed through his neighborhood television program and still serves as a working model for leaders today to further the concept of living in brotherhood with one’s neighbors. I’ll explore this through six leadership lessons for living in brotherhood that stem from the qualities Fred Rogers displayed as host to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. There’s a twist to the lessons – I illustrated them through a mother’s eyes from lessons I learned over the years, of which I carry as a pastor. What I share is both candid and heartfelt.
1. LOOK AT YOUR NEIGHBOR THROUGH THE EYES OF CHRIST
2. HONOR YOUR NEIGHBOR
3. CARE FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR
4. MODEL THE LIGHT
5. LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR
6. SEEK OUT YOUR NEIGHBOR and EXTEND A WELCOMING INVITATION
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?
Won’t you please,
Won’t you please?
Please won’t you be my neighbor?
Fred M. Rogers
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35 KJV).
- Howe, L. T. (1977). Seminar with Fred Rogers. Perkins Journal, 31(1), 1-9.
- Rogers, F. (2003). The world according to Mr. Rogers: Important things to remember. New York, NY: Hyperion.
- Rogers, F. (1967). Won’t you be my neighbor? Retrieved on June 7, 2012, from http://pbskids.org/rogers/songLyricsWontYouBeMyNeighbor.html
- Willis, D. (2012, June). Sermon on Identity. Alsip, IL: Lighthouse Church of All Nations.
- Zoba, W. (2000). Won’t You Be My Neighbor: At the center of Mister Rogers’ cheery songs and smiles lies a God-ordained mission to children. Christianity Today, 44(3), 38-46.
Illustrations: Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2012
“Image of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: Retrieved on June 10, 2012, from http://www.fiftyfootpixel.com/blog/?p=36
Slideshare on Lessons for Leaders