A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff

People love to quote Rumi, Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, and so many others, but I like to quote Fred Rogers. Known to many as Mr. Rogers, he said, or rather sang, everyday on his landmark children’s television series on PBS,

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor.
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?”

Mr. Rogers seemed to say it all in those simple phrases. Every day is a beautiful day in a neighborhood when we see everyone as a ‘neighbor’ who is worthy to be known and treated with respect.”

Mr. Rogers seemed to say it all in those simple phrases. Every day is a beautiful day in a neighborhood when we see everyone as a “neighbor” who is worthy to be known and treated with respect.That doesn’t mean we have to approve of everything they do; we may actually disagree with them, but that does not change the fact that they are worthy. The awareness of worthiness is what opens us up to our own worth and value.

As A Course in Miracles tells us, every encounter with another is a holy encounter; as we see them, think of them, or treat them, we do the same to ourselves. We have to remember that the day we choose to experience is not dependent on the outside world, but instead on the thoughts we choose to hold.

“My holy brother, think of this awhile: the world you see does nothing. It has no effects at all. It merely represents your thoughts. And it will change entirely as you elect to change your mind, and choose the joy of God as what you really want.” (Lesson 190)

It seems almost impossible in a world of such turmoil and anger that simply changing our minds is our salvation. Yet, we have all had experiences where we have been so angry and unmovable on something only to have those feelings melt away as a new perspective was given us.

One such example was shared by a weekly MDC meeting subscriber in Florida, Rae Karen Hauck. Even though the following experience took place many years ago, she still recalls how it brought her to a place of healing towards her dad and still serves as a memory of healing today.

“A recent story Beverly shared reminded me of a long forgotten memory of my dad. For most of my life I was afraid of him. He had served in two wars and earned medals for bravery but had a drinking problem. I was a new bride and not much of a cook. The company I worked for gave each employee a frozen turkey as a Christmas bonus.

“A winter snow had hit our area, and I was on the phone with Mom as she tried to give instructions on how to release the bound turkey legs. Struggling with the defrosted bird, I heard a knock on the apartment door.

He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963, but he was really drawn to the potential of television. He never had a church. He had TV.”

“Through the peephole, I saw my Dad in his Bavarian felt-hat dusted with snow. I was so surprised. He marched into the tiny kitchen with his pliers and did the job! Giving me a quick hug, he told me he loved me. And then he was gone.

“That precious moment melted my frozen heart. Fifty years ago… it is still as fresh as the day it happened. Thank you, Bev, for the healing.”

“The world may seem to cause you pain. And yet the world, as causeless, has no power to cause. As an effect, it cannot make effects. As an illusion, it is what you wish.” (ibid)

Of course, our egos want to persist and say it’s not that easy, but the Course counters with the thought that the grievances and anger we hold onto are really limiting us, and if for one moment we could release them, we would see the benefit. We may still visit those painful, limiting thoughts, but they will not hold the same attraction as they once did. Finally, we will find ourselves visiting them less and less often until we eventually don’t return again. If we truly understood the cost of our unforgiving thoughts, as Workbook lesson 68 instructs, and the benefit of releasing them, perhaps we would find the motivation…

“It is as sure that those who hold grievances will redefine God in their own image, as it is certain that God created them like Himself, and defined them as part of Him. It is as sure that those who hold grievances will suffer guilt, as it is certain that those who forgive will find peace. It is as sure that those who hold grievances will forget who they are, as it is certain that those who forgive will remember.
Would you not be willing to relinquish your grievances if you believed all this were so? Perhaps you do not think you can let your grievances go. That, however, is simply a matter of motivation. Today we will try to find out how you would feel without them. If you succeed even by ever so little, there will never be a problem in motivation ever again.”

If we actually realized the power that is released in every choice we make for healing and love, would we not pursue it? If we experienced the peace and comfort of that release, even if just for a moment, why would we not choose to make that a consistent choice?

Let’s return to Mr. Rogers for a moment. He was born in 1928, so he lived during some pretty turbulent times: World War II, the threat of nuclear war, the Civil Rights movement, Vietnam, assassinations, and I am sure he had some of his own personal challenges. He seemed to persevere through it all with calm and grace. I think it was because of his personal belief in love. Mr. Roger’s once said,

“Love is at the root of everything … all learning, all parenting, all relationships … Love or the lack of it.”

It’s a message similar to that of the Course when it tells us the purpose of this course is the removal of the barriers to love’s presence, because love is all there really is. “The only remedy for lack of love is perfect love.” (T-2.VI.7)

Mr. Rogers perfected the art of love and its extension. He was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963, but he was really drawn to the potential of television. He never had a church. He had TV.

His work for children was honest and genuine. It was said that he spoke without irony because he understood that children take words literally. He used puppets and make-believe to talk to kids about feelings and childhood dilemmas. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which debuted in 1968 during the time of assassinations and racial tensions, addressed these issues and the fear surrounding them. He was honest about his own struggles, showing kids how they could work through their own problems.

A director once told me that if you take all the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

In a recent PBS television documentary, an original staffer on the show said, “A director once told me that if you take all the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: low production values, simple sets, an unlikely star – yet it worked because he was saying something important.”

Director Judd Apatow, who will be filming a feature motion picture about Mr. Rogers starring Tom Hanks, said, “He [Rogers] was pure love.” Apatow went on to say that the example Mr. Rogers set “was the bar of how I would like to behave.”

I did not grow up watching Mr. Rogers, but I did have parents who exhibited the same moral fortitude as Mr. Rogers. They modeled for me and my brother the kind of people we should be by “walking their talk.” In those days, it was referred to as “more is caught than taught.” My parents’ lives reflected kindness, caring, acceptance, and love. They didn’t just talk about it, they lived it.

This is what my husband and I have tried to do for our son, Jeff. Kids are always watching. When Jeff was little and we would drive him everywhere, we never realized how much he was watching our driving skills. When he began to drive, I would remind him to always use his turn signal, which he was very good at doing. He said he watched how his Dad did not consistently use his turn signal, so he wanted to be better at it! Sometimes our kids are watching our misbehavior, too, and luckily making better choices.

These better choices are also being made in our world today. In this current climate, we hear name calling, disrespect, and disregard for human safety in favor of financial gain at the highest levels of our government. Thankfully, our children are teaching us how to behave and making their voices heard with compassion and honesty. They are using the political system that former generations have put into place in a way that is inclusive and unifying. It is not lack of love, but love, that will win the day.

In the current gun debate, when addressing the need to ban semi-automatic weapons, one teenager carried the sign: “Arms are for hugging not killing.” These youth are looking to raise the consciousness of the country, not attack it.

…one teenager carried the sign: “Arms are for hugging not killing.” These youth are looking to raise the consciousness of the country, not attack it.’

Common sense gun laws (universal background checks, raising the age limits, and mental health restrictions) need not be seen as an attack on the 2nd Amendment, but rather a correction to bring it into the 21st century. The framers of our Constitution intended the document to be a living breathing text that would change with the times and inventions. Sensible control on weapons of war is not an attack but a correction, and that is what our function on earth is for. As the Course says, “your function in this world is healing,” (T-13.IV.1) the correction of our perceptions.

In Hugh Prather’s inspirational flip calendar (which I recommend everyone have), he says, “Your thoughts are the atmosphere in which you move. So if you fight your thoughts, you are in a battle zone. Just add God to your thoughts. Just worry in peace; worry in happiness. Gently drop each worry into the still lake of the Divine.”

The Course tells us that it is the Holy Spirits function to save. “How He will do it is beyond your understanding, but when must be your choice.” (T-22.II.8) Therefore, we must, as Hugh Prather instructs, bring the battle zone of our thoughts to God, to invite Him into everything we do. Drop all of our worry, pain, anger, fear and judgments into the still lake of the divine. Let this “divine” encompass those blocks to the awareness of love’s presence.

Again, this does not mean that we withdraw from the world — quite the contrary. As we are told in the Course, teachers of God, miracle workers, are needed now more than ever before; we are here to be bringers of peace.

“The purpose of your learning is to enable you to bring the quiet with you, and to heal distress and turmoil. This is not done by avoiding them and seeking a haven of isolation for yourself.

You will yet learn that peace is part of you, and requires only that you be there to embrace any situation in which you are.” (W-pI.r.in.4:4)

It is time we accept this mission every day. We are here to bring the love of God to every person, experience, or thought that comes our way; to embrace everything with peace. In doing so, it will be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.

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