I always thought Mr. Rogers was fine. A little awkward, perhaps, but okay. His neighborhood wasn’t as entertaining and smart as New York’s Sesame Street, but I knew he tackled some tough topics and that my five children liked him. Once they grew up I pretty much forgot about him.
Until now. With so many others I was humbled by the documentary Won't You Be My Neighbor? and by Tom Hanks’ portrayal of Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Fred Roger’s quiet strength, courage and persistent kindness are especially compelling against the backdrop of our anxious and contentious era.
I was particularly touched as I watched the scene in Beautiful Day when Mr. Rogers lowers himself into a pool, adjusts his goggles, and sets out on his daily swim. With each stroke he remembers the name of a person he has promised to pray for, a list that’s impressively long.
Many of us grew up with the nightly ritual of asking, “God bless Mommy and Daddy and…” As the oldest of eight I was always slightly annoyed when my rhythm was thrown off by a new arrival. I, like so many others, lost that nightly habit about the same time I quit calling my mother "Mommy." It again became a daily ritual when my own children were small, and more haphazard as they “outgrew” it.
ASKING BLESSING 101
Asking blessing for others is always important, especially in these days that are marked by so much distance and danger. At the moment we are physically distant from so many we care about, sometimes even if they live down the street from us. We are not even allowed to visit our loved ones in the hospital to be with them in their suffering. And we have so little control over the economic and physical danger that surrounds us all.
But we can pray. We can pray for peace and safety for those we love and those we are grateful for. We can ask blessing on those who are suffering loss, danger, fear. Asking blessing can seem futile in the face of a global pandemic, and it is certainly no guarantee of physical survival. But we ask anyway. Our asking is a moment of trust, of remembering and reasserting our belief in a loving God. When we ask blessing in the midst of tragedy we expand our view beyond the moment to the larger trajectory of eternity.