“Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Over the past week or so, PBS has been in the news a lot, mostly in regard to Mitt Romney’s statement that he would cut funding for the organization out of the federal budget. This brought to mind a fantastic speech given by Fred Rogers, one of my heroes, given at another time when PBS funding was under consideration by the federal government—if you’ve never heard this speech before, take a few minutes out of your day and watch it here: 

One of the things I most appreciate about Rogers is his constant (and consistently) calm and kind nature. In this speech he never grows angry about the idea of cutting funding for an organization he certainly had both professional and personal investment in—instead he quietly talks to the congressmen about what he does and why it is important, to great effect as you see at the end of the video. Of course, this is just how he was. I don’t have to tell you that, because if you’ve ever seen an episode of his classic tv show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, you know that within moments of seeing him walk through the front door of the house, reaching children at their own level without ever becoming condescending.

My thoughts about Rogers’ nature also came into contact with Sonny Lemmons’ recent post, “The Eyes Have It”, also well worth your time. We live in a world that seems to grow more frenetic and less forgiving every day, and it is good for us to slow down our lives and make real connections. Put down your phone or tablet. Turn off the tv or computer. Make a real connection with people. Meet them on their level. Slow down and enjoy interacting with people, and make eye contact. It can be hard to do, particularly because we live so much of our lives in that fast-paced world, but it’s not only good for other people and your relationships with them, but it is good for yourself to take a step back and just spend an hour watching the birds. You’ll have another chance to do whatever was pulling you away from these other people, or you might find that it really didn’t matter anyway.

Slow down. Enjoy life. Let the day take you where it will take you. Love the people around you, slowly, kindly, and gently.

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5 thoughts on ““Won’t you be my neighbor?”

  1. Anna says:

    Thanks, B.J. I was thinking about this yesterday, when a new child entered my classroom. He is a child with “special needs”, but not in a visible sense. I want to always take the time to interact with each child and help them become comfortable. I love the fact that there is one little boy who came in crying & clinging to his daddy every time for the first 2 weeks. Now he comes eagerly, hopefully because he knows it is a safe place.

  2. […] One of my first posts was on the need to slow down and enjoy life that is happening right in front of me, so on Sunday we went to a church picnic at a local farm. This was a small gathering–we attend a small church, and naturally not everyone came to the picnic–but I’m always amazed at how Sam responds to people outside of the family. Sam is always happy to interact with other people. He loves to be held by new people, talk to them, smile at them, and play with them. I suspect he gets that from his mom, because that’s certainly not how I am! I typically stay very reserved around new people, or even not-so-new people, simply because that’s my personality. In college I had several class discussions about the “nature vs. nurture” debate, in conjunction with Locke’s Tabula Rasa, John B. Watson’s theories, or even in a literature class when we discussed Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson. Throughout my life I have been a “nurture” devotee, but since Sam’s birth I can’t help but reconsider my beliefs. Sam simply looks like an extrovert at 4 months old. Of course, personality changes over time and he might turn out to be completely different, but this seems like an inborn trait. I suppose this is just another example of the way our perspectives change as life goes on–maybe a bit of “nurturing” that modifies our own nature. I don’t think this is a bad thing at all–I’m glad he loves to spend time with other people and that he’s as happy to spend time with non-family members as family members. Of course, there was a lot more than just interpersonal interaction at the picnic–there was a farm full of animals as well! Samuel’s still a bit young for a petting zoo, but we still walked around to look at goats, sheep, ducks, chickens, rabbits, peacocks, and fish. I thought Samuel might enjoy watching them, based on how funny he finds our cat, but he was mostly uninterested. Despite this lack of interest, I enjoyed seeing the animals, and watching the other young children at the farm reminded me of how much we still have to look forward to in the future. I have no doubt that within the next few years going to a farm like that will be incredibly fun for everyone, but most of all Samuel. Samuel has so much more to discover in life, and I am so glad I get to be involved with the discovery process. After all, a front-row seat is nice, but being on the stage is so much more fun and engaged in the process is so much more fun than anything else I could imagine. […]

  3. […] As I explained in one of my first posts, Fred Rogers is one of my heroes. However, believe it or not, Dolly Parton is another hero of mine. Don’t get me wrong now, it’s not for her music (somehow I grew up in the south and never gained an appreciation for country music), it’s for her business savvy, and above all, her philanthropy. […]

  4. […] are intended as a form of relaxation or entertainment. In fact, it helps me to remind myself to take things slowly. One of the best things I can do as a parent is to take things slowly and let life develop at its […]

  5. […] singing together, and I hope we will continue to do so. Music fills a void in us. Fred Rogers, a major hero of mine, says […]

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