My Favorite Neighbor
By: Kayla Faherty
Allow me to introduce you to my favorite neighbor. Every time he visits my family, my daughters, my husband, and me all seem to light up. He is such a joy to be around. He takes the time to talk with my daughters about important things, and always shows concern for their emotions. He always tells them how special they are, and that he likes them exactly as they are. He meets them where they are and teaches them about things they are curious about, things that are relevant to the world around them. He communicates honestly and openly, and shares great truths about life. He encourages them to learn and grow. He talks with them about music, animals, school, friendship, all sorts of topics. He explains to them how crayons, umbrellas, and bass violins are made. He shows them recycling plants, mushroom farms, and graham cracker factories. He cultivates a sense of wonder in them. He inspires them to use their imaginations, to make-believe all sorts of situations. He connects with them on deeper levels, letting them know they are loved and capable of love. He really is the best neighbor I know, always warm and welcoming. His presence is peaceful. He is kind, caring, and trustworthy. You may have met him long ago, or perhaps you are introducing your children to him. His name is Fred, but many know him as Mister Rogers.
Our family doesn’t watch much television; however we set aside thirty minutes several times a month to be nurtured by the charity of Fred Rogers. Our daughters have always enjoyed his program, dancing to the opening song and waving goodbye with his closing song. They are attentive and can relate to the many situations explored in the show. After watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, we always engage in a discussion about the topics covered, and our daughters truly learn much during a half hour spent with Fred Rogers. My husband and I learn as well. We are reminded that each of us is still developing, still growing into the best person we can be. And his music touches us as well. The lyrics and composition he spent so much time and care creating have a lasting impact as they become part of us.
It is hard not to be drawn to Fred Rogers. His personality is so inviting. He is one of the most genuine, real people I have ever had the privilege of getting to know, if only through the TV set. He was authentic about his care for children and all people. Rather than playing a character in the show, Fred Rogers was the same person off-the-screen as well as on. His sense of presence with whomever he was with at the moment shone through no matter what is going on around him.
We are all seeking the truth, and he is so very generous in sharing it with us. I believe, more than any other quality or characteristic, the one that connects with me the most is Fred Rogers’ love for his neighbor. Faith played the central role in his life.
Jesus Himself teaches us that the second greatest commandment after loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength is like it: to love our neighbor as ourself (Mk. 12:28-31). Just as Fred Rogers recognized each person as his neighbor, and treated him with such great care, we too can realize the value in each person’s life and with our words and deeds show them the great love that comes from the Father.
If you haven’t watched an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood lately, you can find them on pbskids.org as well as Amazon Prime. There are several books in which you can learn more about him, and my personal favorite is I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers by Tim Madigan. I also enjoyed the documentary Fred Rogers – America’s Favorite Neighbor.
It is important work loving your neighbor. The smallest act can make a big difference. I have always wished I really did have a neighbor like Fred Rogers on my street. And as I grow older, I realize that I can be that neighbor, the one who acts with charity. And you can too. So let’s make the most of this beautiful day!