Monday, March 20, 2017

Where is Mr. Rogers When You Need Him?

Walking downtown today to meet a friend for breakfast, I passed one of those signs that are springing up all over our town. I can read one third of the sign, and envy those who can read double or triple that.

No matter where you are from, 
          we are glad you're our neighbor.

An image of Mr. Rogers immediately sprang into my mind’s eye, Mr. Rogers, that gentle soul who brought up many generations of children with his TV show and introductory song – “Won’t you be my neighbor.”

We need Mr. Rogers now. We need gentleness, welcoming, kindness, generosity, honesty. Are these values still treasured, sought after, in this country? Today’s newspapers note that in a neighboring town, the neighbor signs are being stolen.  They also report that while the process of rounding up and deporting immigrants is escalating, the official word is that the process will be more humane than a previous plan. How so? There is an oxymoron in there somewhere.

My father’s father and mother immigrated to this country from Belgium during the time of famine and economic hardship. In fact, emigration from Belgium was even encouraged t
o ease hunger and hardship. In this country, they worked as bartenders and loom repairers and thus were able to establish themselves and their seven children comfortably into a lower economic class life style. There is very little to know about their early history, because records were not kept for poor immigrant families. Yet, to my surprise, I stumbled upon some letters, written by some of my father’s older sisters in their later, more comfortable years, deploring the fact that the neighborhood where they lived was being settled by a new wave of immigrants, possibly from the south of the US, and referring to their new neighbors in pejorative and denigrating terms; they wondered if they should move to avoid the taint of these new arrivals in their neighborhood.

How quickly we forget our previous hardships, our humble beginnings, how people already in residence mistreated our own immigrant predecessors.

I’m with the neighborhood signs. And Mr. Rogers. And my dog Niko. who is an icon for the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.* He and his friend Sunny delight in each others’ company, and, when resources are tight, find it in themselves to share the bone.

* Self-control when the plate is unguarded is, I admit, a bit of a stretch.

Lacking a better alternative, Niko and Sunny decide to share.

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