Not too long ago, Wayne and I went to see the documentary of Fred Rogers’ life, titled Won’t You Be My Neighbor? We laughed and cried and smiled … inspired by this life lived for the sake of love and the wisdom and creativity that was birthed from that love. Now we get to witness the story again through fresh eyes, a Tom Hanks/Rogers rendition, called A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Here Rogers’ life is presented through a most loving conflict between two people: Rogers and the damaged inner child of the reporter who has come to understand him.
Revisiting this godly man’s story has been an excuse for us to revisit our own. The quest for love of neighbor has been our “Neighborhood’s” mission from the very beginning also. Oh … how we resonate with some of Mr. Rogers’ quotes:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like ‘struggle.’ To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.”
Love of neighbor… It is the second part of the greatest commandment. Here, Jesus identified with the least, last, lost and left out. He lived what He taught and then He told His followers what loving God with all their hearts, minds, and souls meant, so they could live what He taught. Neighbor love, living theology!
There is a famous Bible story where Jesus tells us how love of neighbor looks, “The Good Samaritan.” I have always been moved by the way Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. teaches this story:
Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus; and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters in life. At points, he wanted to trick Jesus, and show Him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew, and through this, throw Him off base. This conversation could have easily ended up in a philosophical or a theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous road between Jerusalem and Jericho. And He talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn’t stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But with him, he administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the “I” into the “thou,” and to be concerned about his brother. Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to determine why the priest and the Levite didn’t stop … But I am going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It’s possible that these men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road … It’s a winding, meandering road. It’s really conducive for ambushing. In the days of Jesus, it came to be known as the Bloody Pass. And you know, it’s possible that the priest and the Levite looked over at that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it’s possible that they felt that the man was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them over there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the Levite asked was, ‘If I stop to help this man what will happen to me?’ But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’ 1
To live a followership of the Lord Jesus we must grasp this parable and be able to comprehend and answer the question of “who is my neighbor?” Each follower is implicated by being unable to “see” the one beaten down in front of us. Each follower is also implicated by the ability to have compassion, the kind that commands us to stop and get involved, though it will be costly and inconvenient. “For the love of Christ controls us,”2 the Bible reveals.
Neighborhood Ministries has had many mentors. Some of them are contemporary, like Fred Rogers with his wealth of wisdom. Some were historic, like MLK, Jr. We grab hold of those who sought to understand and live the quest of “loving neighbor.” Their obedience to Jesus and the Gospel in these matters gives us courage and strength to do the same.
When you give to Neighborhood Ministries, you are being a loving neighbor to hundreds of children and families right here in Phoenix. And there are multiple ways to give – from a simple financial donation, to a gift from your retirement fund or the gift of a vehicle and everything in-between. (visit nmphx.com/make-a-donation for more information)
Any way you do it, your gift today allows us to give a hand up to those in need and creates a stronger, healthier community in the process.
What could possibly be more neighborly than that?
Be invited … feel welcomed into this neighborhood. “Won’t you … won’t you … won’t you be [with us] in our neighborhood?” (I was singing this … to you)
With much love,
P.S. Don’t forget that “being neighborly” doesn’t have to cost you a dime! Thanks to the AZ Charitable Tax Credit, every gift you give to the work of Neighborhood Ministries qualifies for a tax credit on your 2019 taxes – up to $400 for those filing singly and up to an incredible $800 for those filing jointly! Thank you again for being a loving neighbor to the children and families we serve!