neighbor: Red Letter Challenge

Sing it with me now…

“It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood
A neighborly day for a beauty
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day
Since we’re together, we might as well say
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please
Won’t you please
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”

This is how Fred Rogers started each episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and if you grew up in the 70s and 80s, chances are you did sing along with that song.

I have long known the “neighborhood” Mr. Rogers created left a lasting impression on me. His acceptance, his curiosity, his willingness to address real issues, all shaped me.

More recently I have been thinking about another neighborhood which informed the way I see the world. I say neighborhood, but we most associate it with a street…Sesame Street.

I’ve been wondering about what it would look like if my neighborhood, the real life place where I live, looked like Sesame Street?

Could my neighborhood be a place where diversity was evident and celebrated? Could people and animals and monsters (I’m thinking those who are different and unique; the foreigner and stranger) share life in real and meaningful ways? Could each person be understood as special? Could we have fun and learn and wrestle with the tough stuff together? Could everyone have a place and feel part of something magical? Could we understand ourselves as connected and dependent upon each other? Could we really and truly be neighbors?

I’m committed to trying to find out. I’ve started by just learning a little bit about those who live around me. Putting names and faces together is a start. I’m learning about neighbor’s families and interests. I’m looking for opportunities to engage and learn more.

I’ve stopped worrying about whether the leaves from the tree next door are piled in my yard or whether the dog down the street is leaving presents for me to find. I’m picking up trash here and there. I even moved the bins from the curb up to the side of the house where the neighbor stores them after noticing they may have been out of town.

None of this is all that amazing. And that’s just it. Being a neighbor isn’t about extravagant displays of kindness (that would be pretty great though, huh?), it’s the every day hellos and waves and bits of conversation at the edges of driveways. It’s paying attention and noticing those we share this space with. It is keeping an eye out for the lost dogs and shoveling the sidewalk way past your house. It’s a bazillion tiny, seemingly insignificant moments which can open the door to the bigger stuff.

Sesame Street is an imaginary world, but isn’t that how the best things in life come to be? Don’t they all start in the imagination until someone decides to make them real?

I know I have more to think about and say around this Sesame Street vision, but for now I’m going to work on trying to be a person you might want to meet while you’re walking down the street, a person you might meet each day.

Life is better together,
Shawn

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