Won’t You Be My Neighbor
During This Season of Sabbath, a Must-See Documentary
Written by Mark Zaineddin
Love is at the root of everything … all learning, all relationships; love or the lack of it.
As Margy Whitmer, a producer of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, suggests, Fred Rogers bucked the common norms of contemporary society. In a world that highly values the latest technology, fast-paced action, a “just do it” attitude, and a “me-centered” focus, Rogers presented a very different picture. A simple set … a slowed-down delivery … a nondescript star … and a basic, yet profoundly radical, message: a message of steadfast kindness and unconditional love.
These were the elements that Fred Rogers made use of in his children’s television program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. And now Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, an intimate and critically acclaimed documentary that explores the that ideas and meaning of Fred Rogers and his show has come to town. I was able to see a special preview, and, I do not say this lightly, you have to see it.
At a time when too often darkness seems to prevail over light, fear over hope, despair over joy, and hatred over love, it becomes very apparent from the film that Fred Rogers “preached” a Kingdom of God message without sounding preachy. I use the word preached because Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian minister, although my guess is that few of his viewers — young and old alike — ever knew that. While not denying the harsh realities of this world, Mr. Rogers continually expressed that each and every child and adult — no matter who they are, from where they have come, or what circumstances they have faced — is a unique being, full of worth and love.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is not a biopic about Fred Rogers, although one certainly will learn about him. It rather focuses on the ideas, values, and ethics that he embraced and lived out both in real life and on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Throughout the film, you will find examples of Mr. Rogers demonstrating the importance of cooperation and respect, the dignity of difference and of pardon, the permissibility of expressing emotions including fear, the power of slowing down and of being mindful, the joy of participating in community and in camaraderie, the call to care for creatures and creation, and, of course, the greatest gift … the gift of knowing that one is loved and capable of loving.
Indeed, it’s a message that needs to be seen, heard, and practiced now more than ever.
During this season of Sabbath, it’s time to pay a visit to the Land of Make Believe; to go and view the new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, on the big screen. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry; and, perhaps most importantly, it will make you think about who we are and how we are called to live and act on the corner of Vanderbilt and Horne and beyond.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is playing at the Alamo Drafthouse, a new cinema on New Bern Avenue. I implore you to see it, you will not be disappointed. Oh … and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to go with a friend!