by Beverly Hutchinson McNeff
Last year a documentary was released on the life of Fred Rogers and his innovative children’s show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that first aired in 1968. The documentary entitled Won’t You be My Neighbor gave audiences a look at the man who was just as caring behind the scenes as he was in front of the camera. This powerful glimpse provided clues as to how he did it.
Fred Rogers always carried in his pocket a quote given to him by a social worker that changed the way he looked at life. It read: “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.”
Many people recalled the power of this thought in Fred’s life, as he often referred to it. If friends would tell him about someone who had angered them, Fred would always say, “But I wonder what was going on in that person’s day.”
Instead of taking it as a personal affront, Mr. Rogers was inviting those people to look a little deeper – to the content of that person and not just the effect of their behavior.
Where are you looking right now? Is there someone who is causing you upset or anger? Perhaps we can look a little deeper, with a new perspective. In A Course in Miracles, we are asked to remember the truth of every Child of God, past their ego actions and personas. We are not asked to condone hateful actions, and in some cases those actions may need to be stopped, but we can also meet them at the level of truth as God knows them and start affecting a transformation that will produce a healing outcome for us all.
As the Course tells us,
“This is God’s Final Judgment: You are still My holy Son, forever innocent, forever loving and forever loved, as limitless as your Creator, and completely changeless and forever pure. Therefore awaken and return to Me. I am Your Father and you are My Son.” (W-pII.10.5)
It’s time for us to return our thinking to God; to awaken and join our minds with His eternal, loving judgment. The Course reminds us that nothing we have done can change the innocence that abides within us, but we often feel it has. To help students of the Course experience this idea, we came up with the idea of a “Wall of Innocence.”
The idea came out of one of our weekly meetings at the Center. An elderly gentleman brought in a black and white picture of himself as a five year old boy. As he showed me the photo, I could see him gazing at himself with love and understanding. He had had a tough life, but that image helped him remember the true essence of himself. He had not changed, even if his body or the circumstances of his life had. We talked about the compassion he had for that child and perhaps he could still have for his older self. With a smile and a nod of the head, he agreed.
When we look at photos of children, we have great compassion and understanding for their mistakes. When it comes to us grown-ups, however, that is not always the case. It is time for us to learn again the truth that God knows about us, no matter what age we are.
It is amazing the smiles we have seen on people’s faces when they look at their own childhood photos. They remember their innocence, and if they can remember theirs, perhaps they can think that way about people who tempt them to anger. Our innocence, no matter what we have done, can never be lost. It is time for us to awaken to that.
We hope you will become a part of our Wall and declare the eternal innocence about yourself that you can deny but can never lose! Send us your childhood photo (around the age of 5 or 6, but younger is okay, too) by email and we will post it on our Wall of Innocence. Please include your name, city and state, and your approximate age at the time of the photo. Check back often to see the wall grow in love and innocence.
“Be innocent of judgment, unaware of any thoughts of evil or of good that ever crossed your mind of anyone. Now do you know him not. But you are free to learn of him, and learn of him anew. Now is he born again to you, and you are born again to him, without the past that sentenced him to die, and you with him. Now is he free to live as you are free, because an ancient learning passed away, and left a place for truth to be reborn.” (T-31.I.13)