Safe Families for Children: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
–by Stacie Lejcar
Have you ever had a time when someone says something and immediately your mind flashes to a song lyric? I have to admit it happens to me enough that I think my mind must be part jukebox. A few months ago when the sermon series “The Art of Neighboring” began, my mind hit the repeat button each week on a song that I heard every weekday during my preschool years.
Every weekday I was invited by Mister Rogers to become a “television neighbor.” He began each show by singing the song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” He defined what a neighbor was each week by the events that happened in the Neighborhood of Make Believe and through the people and experiences that were introduced during each 30-minute show. He further defined how to be a good neighbor by how he spoke to people and by how he explained how to handle emotions and thoughts. Each day I felt valued, loved, and important. I wanted to be someone that Mister Rogers would be proud of. I also wanted to live in the Neighborhood of Make Believe and ride the Trolley, and I still want to (yep, I never really grew up).
It wasn’t a surprise to me when years later as a grown-up I discovered that Mister Rogers was an ordained minister. He never quoted a Bible verse or mentioned Jesus on his program, but Biblical principles were taught through each episode.
I was reflecting on that fact this week as I sat with my four-year-old as he watched “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” This is the updated show to the old “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood.” The new version is great, and the songs are catchy and teach great stuff to preschoolers. The only thing I really wish was still a part of the show is Mister Rogers himself. Sadly, he passed away a few years ago. I wish my son could have been his “television neighbor.” There is just something special about a person looking directly at you (even if it is through a television screen) and saying with absolute sincerity, “You are valuable.” They say it with absolute sincerity because they know it is true because God said so and then backed it up by sending His son to the cross for us.
Because of what God has done for us, we have the honor of being someone’s real neighbor and looking at them and saying, “You have value.” Then we get to back it up with our actions. Even if we only get to say it in our heads, the actions speak more than we ever could.
One of the ways our church offers us that gift is through a partnership with Bethany Christian Services. Bethany is part of a nationwide program called “Safe Families for Children.” This program provides the opportunity for families to open their home to a child or children that need a safe home to live in for a short time while their parents deal with a crisis. That crisis can be a medical crisis, a housing crisis, or a personal crisis. They do not have extended family to rely on, so we are given the opportunity to be their neighbor and to look at them and remind them that they are loved and valued. After the crisis has passed and the child returns to their family, it is the hope of the organization that the host family will continue the relationship with the family and as that relationship deepens and strengthens, then they are able to share the Gospel if the family has never heard that love story before. The host family isn’t part of the services that address the crisis; they are simply to be “a good neighbor.” This link further explains this wonderful ministry. Feel free to sing the Mister Roger’s theme song as you read it. If you have more questions or are interested in becoming a host family, please email Pastor Omar.