754. Fred Rogers and Repairing Creation

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A little over a week ago I watched the new documentary about Fred Rogers, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Have you seen it? I have fond memories of my sons calmly and happily watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood on television when they were little, and while I have always been grateful for Fred Rogers, I was ever more so after watching the documentary.

I’ve been thinking since about how Fred Rogers became who he was and what he has to say to us, even us grown-ups, about who we become. From all that was shared in the documentary, two things, in particular, stand out.

The first is that he was a minister with a degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He worked in television before going to seminary and after he graduated from seminary. He knew that being a minister was not limited to standing behind a pulpit, as valuable as that definition of minister is. A man or woman who has prepared to serve God, or intends to serve God whether or not a degree is behind that intention, can do so in a multitude of ways.

The second is what he had to say to all of us, even and especially us grown-ups, about what we do with our lives. In a special television appearance after 9/11, he challenged his listeners to be about something big:

“No matter what our particular job, especially in our world today, we all are called to be tikkun olam, repairers of creation. Thank you for whatever you do, wherever you are, to bring joy and life and hope and faith and pardon and love to your neighbor and to yourself.”

Read that phrase again: Repairers of creation.

Today with the strong, and sometimes misguided, emphasis on finding one’s unique vocation or “call” and following only that perceived path, this reminder that each of us is to be about the mending of creation by bringing joy, life, hope, faith, pardon, and love to the world around us no matter our job—in any job, in every job—is so needed.

If you haven’t seen the documentary, maybe you can still catch it in a theater. If not, for about the cost of a hamburger or large latte you can watch it on iTunes or another online service. I do hope you will.


[photo: taken on a recent autumn walk]

753. Try anyway

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This past Sunday in church, our minister said something that I keep circling back to in my thoughts: "It is hard. We will fail. Try anyway." He wasn't talking about making your first million or running a marathon. He was talking about living righteously, following God through all of life, doing what is yours to do. On the surface, with those first beats of hard and fail, the lines strike as pessimistic. But read it again, this time with a clear and calm emphasis on the last line. Try anyway. Say it like a breath. Inhale; exhale. Say it with your eyes closed, then open them and say it again. Try anyway: an intention, an assurance, a hint. Say it with a smile, a wink.


[photo: taken of new fake dried flowers that look ever so real]

752. Hope on the pages of novels

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Because I've been writing about, and working on a book about, hope, I've been trying to keep my eyes open for the role of hope in the lives of characters in novels.  It's quite interesting how often hope is a key force in story lines.

A couple years ago I wrote here about reading Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout. The book's main character, Olive, was continually in her own self-imposed exile, but nevertheless always held out her hand to pull someone else back from their exile, or demise. In this novel in stories, Olive meets up with Kevin, the boy-turned-man whom Olive had helped as a child when his mother was crazy, as he sits in his car on a cliff, suicidal yet contemplating hope. Olive opens the door and climbs into the front seat. Kevin likes that Olive has joined him: “Again, Kevin found himself liking the sound of her voice...Don't go, his mind said to Mrs. Kitteridge. Don't go. But this turbulence in him was torture. … Hope was a cancer inside him. He didn't want it; he did not want it. He could not bear these shoots of tender green hope springing up within him any longer.”

But then Kevin sees a young woman, an old friend, fall off the cliff just beyond his car and into the ocean below, and he moves from fighting against hope to enacting hope. He jumps in to save her, and he is saved in the process:

“He had only to keep Patty from falling away, and as they went again beneath the swirling, sucking water, he strengthened his grip on her arm to let her know: He would not let her go. … he thought he would like this moment to be forever: the dark-haired woman on shore calling for their safety, the girl who had once jumped rope like a queen, now holding him with a fierceness that matched the power of the ocean—oh, insane, ludicrous, unknowable world! Look how she wanted to live, look how she wanted to hold on."

If you like the idea, pay attention in the next novel you read and see if you don't see hope somewhere on the page.


[Photo: taken of a bench at Trinity Lutheran church in Hovland, Minnesota]