On February 27, 2003, a great man -- Fred McFeely Rogers, best known for the children's television show Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood -- left this world at the age of seventy-four. He once said that "I have really never considered myself a TV star. I always thought I was a neighbor who just came in for a visit."
It's been about three years since the last time Mr. Rogers came in for a visit, when he stepped out of retirement to tape a show to help parents explain September 11th to their kids, to visit with kids and their families at a time when the wide world out there was so hostile and confusing. He was our neighbor over seven hundred times during his life, by presenting love unconditionally to anyone who wanted to tune in to his show. He didn't know if there would be people on the other side of the television screen who he wouldn't have been able to deal with in real life, but he still did it, making many lives happier, especially children's lives.
We can all be like Mr. Rogers. Not necessarily hosting a television program -- even though Mr. Stagmeister's Neighborhood does sound appealing, I don't think it would fly too well with the producers -- but by presenting love to anyone whom we pass in our lives just as he did through his show.
Often people ask: What can I do? The world has such problems, I couldn't really make much of a difference myself. Fred Rogers didn't feel the need to become a TV star, he was just a good neighbor. In the same way, doing the big things -- in the words of Mr. Rogers, being a TV star -- isn't the only way to make the world a better place. Following his legacy, all you need to do is be a good neighbor to one person each day.
Because what does a neighbor do? Neighbors make your day brighter, help you out, say Hi! to you when they see you outside. Neighbors do the little things to make your day better, every day. If we all were good neighbors to each other, our neighborhood -- the world -- would be a fantastically better place. When you ask yourself, What can I do?, remember that even the littlest action makes a difference, no matter how small it might seem.
Mr. Rogers also said that "We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It's easy to say 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes." Responding can be anything from volunteering at your local library to donating some clothing to the Salvation Army to simply sitting next to the new kid at lunch tomorrow and introducing yourself, being his neighbor.
Our world can always be improved. So let's begin: Won't you be my neighbor?