“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
The words are easy to say. Christians know the command by heart — the two great purposes: love God and love people. The second one is like the first, as if to mean, that when we love our neighbor, we love God. When we look into the eyes of our neighbor, we see the eyes of Christ. But who is our neighbor? The words are easy to say. To live them, to truly love, is difficult.
A Beautiful Day to Go to the Movies
There are few release dates more appropriate than that of this year’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” premiering Thanksgiving week (November 22, 2019). From Affirm Films comes an inspiring story of hope, forgiveness and changed lives. This year the film industry has seen several biopics. However, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” does not dive into the personal life of Fred Rogers as much as the impact that someone can have on one person’s life.
Tom Hanks is absolutely astounding as Mister Rogers, playing the role as if he were born for it. The film is based on the real-life friendship that developed between Rogers and Esquire journalist Tom Junod (movie character Lloyd Vogel played by Matthew Rhys) and inspired by Junod’s cover article “Can You Say… Hero?” (esquire.com/entertainment/tv/a27134/can-you-say-hero-esq1198/).
From a technical standpoint, the movie is brilliant as it synthesizes the surreal with serendipity. Scenes take the viewer inside the psychology of the protagonist, as well as venturing into the fantastical and imaginative world of Rogers’ make-believe neighborhood.
A Beautiful Day to Be Kind
I have often been fascinated by the legacy of Mister Rogers. What is it exactly that made him so magnetic and influential? A man so calm and soft-spoken to the point of being arguably boring and yet undeniably irresistible.
It really came together for me when I heard Rogers explain what it was he was trying to accomplish — that each time he spoke into the camera, he imagined that he was speaking to one individual child to help them know how to deal with their feelings. I get that. Even as an adult, when I watch Rogers it is as if he is looking directly at me and speaking to me. It makes such an impact when this gentle man looks at you with kind, bright eyes and says, “I like you just the way you are.”
In a world full of judgment, criticism and loneliness, it is nice to hear that perhaps you do have value and you do belong. Hope does triumph over despair. Kindness is greater than cynicism. In one powerful scene, Rogers invites Vogel to reflect for one minute on those who loved him into being. Many films would cut away and make a sharper edit. But the director, Marielle Heller, allows the moment to fully exist, and thereby it becomes an invitation for the viewer to do the same.
So who is our neighbor? The rich and the poor. The young and the old. The elite and the homeless. The corrupt, the honest, the cynical, the naïve, the prisoner, the immigrant, the popular, the loner, the healthy, the ill, the addict, the outcast, the one that is different. The orphan and the widow. My enemy. Everyone. So, let us love one another. November 13 is World Kindness Day. But perhaps we can all try a little more to do a little more. After all, every day is a beautiful day to be kind.
Creative, whimsical, thoughtful, and deeply sincere, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” is one of those timely and essential films for all to see and ponder. For more information visit: ABeautifulDay.Movie
“Knowing that we can be loved exactly as we are gives us all the best opportunity for growing into the healthiest of people” (Fred Rogers).
Dr. Walker lives in central Florida with his wife and their foster children. You can follow his blog at finleywalker.blog