brown wooden board with hello neighbor come on in signage

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

I recently saw the movie, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is a wonderful story of the relationship between Fred Rogers, of the children’s television show Mister Rogers, and a reporter. It is structured as one of the shows from the series, but for adults. It is well worth seeing.

In one of the scenes the reporter asks Rogers about the character he plays in the show. Rogers gives him a curious look, but the thread is never really tied down. In another scene Rogers is shown speaking with a little boy after the conclusion of a segment on the show. Filming had finished and the producer comments that he does that all the time, implying that he wastes time by constantly talking with people.

I have read elsewhere that the answer to the reporter’s question would be that Rogers did not play a character on the show. What the audience saw was him simply being who he was, Mister Rogers. That was the message behind the look he gives the reporter in the film. He did not play a character. There was no investigation to do to discover the real man. He was right before him.

What many people do not know is that Rogers was a devout Christian who had been bullied as a child. That is suggested in the movie but understated. He was an ordained pastor. He was neither a perfect Christian nor a perfect human. Nevertheless, he was extremely kind, gentle, and caring. As he did with the boy on the show, he always took time to listen to people. Indeed, it can be and has been said that when he was engaged in conversation with someone that person had his complete attention. He cared for each person and tried to leave them in a better place than when the conversation began.

As Christians, Christ not only redeems us but calls us to be transformed into his image. That is nothing we can achieve. It is a product of the work of the Holy Spirit to the extent we invite and permit the Spirit to transform us. There are no such things as good Christians and bad Christians. There are just Christians at various points along this road to transformation. For many their human nature is far more visible than that of Christ, inviting criticism by those who do not understand the road that Christians are hypocrites because they are not the perfect reflection of Christ. Some Christians, however, find the process of that surrender easier than others and travel much further and faster down that road. They become Christ-like. Mother Teresa is a well-known example. Fred Rogers is another.

As Fred Rogers was just who he was on the television show, not an actor, so too was how he was as a Christian. He did not try to make himself into the image of Christ. He just had been transformed by the Holy Spirit into the image of Christ in many ways. In those aspects of his life he had become the person Christ intended for him to be. What the reporter in the movie did not understand was that what he saw that was so unique about Fred Rogers was that he was truly living a pretty full life as a Christian. It just showed in who he was and through much of what he did. He was not just seeing Rogers; he was seeing Christ. Rogers did not try to play a Christian in real life, he was one.

The hallmark question of Mister Rogers was, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” He asked the question with gentleness and kindness. Those hearing knew that if they accepted the invitation they would have a neighbor who would care for them and with whom they would find acceptance and could live in peace. That is the same invitation that Christ offers. He will accept each person no matter who you are or what you have done. He promises acceptance, caring, and peace. As he did with Fred Rogers, he will set out to transform your life so that you will be the person you were intended to be. Listen and you will hear him ask, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” Answer “Yes” and your life will never be the same.

December 12, 2019


  1. Marilyn Reed on December 12, 2019 at 5:44 pm

    Great job, Tom. I’m sharing. Had to laugh, though, the “ad” on your page…at least the one I can see. Looks like a night at Church of the Brethren communion/foot washing (but is actually an ad for getting rid of toe fungus.)

Leave a Comment

Welcome, I'm Tom

I'm Tom Trezise a retired lawyer and corporate executive with over twenty years of experience as a Methodist lay preacher. Raised in Appalachia, I proudly call myself a hillbilly at heart. I'm the executive director of The Everyday Kingdom, a non-profit devoted to fostering a community that helps people find and experience the peace, purpose, and joy available from living every day in Christ’s kingdom.

Search the Blog