I can’t wait to see the new movie, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, in which Tom Hanks stars as Fred Rogers, the iconic creator and performer of television’s long running childrens’ show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Reviews of the movie have been generally quite favorable recognizing Hanks’s interpretation of Fred Rogers for hisdrilling deeply into the psyche of a man who gently surfaced a “radical kindness” that children could easily comprehend.
“Radical kindness” is what Jake Tapper, a reporter for CNN, called the kindness of Fred Rogers. It simply means that everyone is treated with kindness, even those with whom we disagree or find hard to like, let alone love. That’s the radical part. Can I truly love such a person even though I find his or her actions and beliefs reprehensible? Can I truly love someone even though I believe the person to be down right wrong? Can the deepest part of me reach out to help someone with whom I am diametrically opposite?
We know of another person who lived ‘radical kindness’ and his story is the basis of our faith. While Jesus stood up to the corrupt leaders of his time, he also invited some of them into conversation, ate meals with them, walked with them, healed their loved ones. The point is he never closed off discussion with his detractors.
The Thanksgiving Table and Radical Kindness
This week we will all be moving toward a vortex of joy, good food, and the welcome feeling of family comfort around the Thanksgiving table. In some gatherings there may be a bit of tension just ready to turn the happy event into a volcanic eruption spewing ashes more than turkey gravy.
Two other dinners come to mind which were similar to what some may experience on this special holiday. Sitting among the Pharisees who had invited him to dinner, Jesus read the mind of Simon in whose house he was eating. Yes, he read Simon’s mind, undoubtedly because of Simon’s uncomfortable body language when a woman interrupted the feast to wash Jesus’ feet thus asking for forgiveness. The other is the feast of the Last Supper, again when Jesus read the body language of his betrayer and asked him to “act quickly” as recorded in John’s Gospel.
‘Radical kindness’ is the understanding we bring to our tables, an understanding that leaves no one hurt or alone despite our differences. For this we should all be grateful.
“Love isn’t a state of perfect caring. It is an action noun like ‘struggle’. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now.” Fred Rogers