A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I grew up with Mr. Rogers.  Yes, my father was a Mr. Rodgers, but the OTHER Mr. Fred Rogers was a regular in our neighborhood, at least via TV.  I had the privilege of taking him to lunch in the Senate member dining room a year before he passed away.  A few days before the lunch, my wife and I attended a play at the Kennedy Center called Stones in His Pocket, alluding to the stones that weighed down the dashed hopes of an Irish character as he waded into a local lake to his death.  Typical light, Irish humor.  As Mr. Rogers and I shared our favorite theologians (he graduated from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, I attended Trinity Episcopal Seminar in Pittsburgh), I described the despair of this Irish character, and the eventual disappointment that we all experience when we pin our value, dreams and hopes on temporal things.In response, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, worn cross.  It was taped and dirty from fingering.  He told me he carried it wherever he went.  It was made by the residents of the L'Arche community of adults with disabilities in Canada using wood fragments remaining from the coffin they built for their pastor, Henri Nouwen, the theologian and friend of Mr. Rogers.  He carried it to remind himself that everyone-and I mean EVERYONE-he saw and encountered was made in God's image. It shouted the fact: "You are Special."  It is no surprise that the idea for Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood came from his seminary doctoral work.I cited this story at a recent lecture I gave at Grove City College, and contrasted the current fiction writing efforts of sociobiological evolutionist E. O. Wilson, who argues "that our behavior is governed by genetics and evolutionary imperatives."   In his forthcoming book Anthill, he compares human communities to an ant colony and says,  "The analogies implied in the novel are not accidents. Social insects-termites and ants-in terms of biomass totally dominate the insect world. In parallel manner, human beings have essentially taken over the planet, with the same general properties of altruistic social behavior and division of labor."  He lives with evolution in his pocket.I showed two videos at the lecture, both of which contrast Stones in His Pocket and Anthill with a countervailing vision and basis for human dignity.  The first was U2's Original of the Species, an obvious play on words and on Darwin's Origin of the Species. The other a segment was from Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, when he interviewed Jeff Erlanger in his wheelchair.We know what was in Mr. Rogers' pocket, and what I believe is also in Bono's pocket.  As we "work" through this uniquely Holy Week, which shouts: "You are Special," what is in yours?Blessings,Mark Rodgers