Hospitality Lessons from Mr. Rogers

mrrogersFrom Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood: Letters to Mr. Rogers:

“Dear Mister Rogers, Please say when you are feeding your fish, because I worry about them. I can’t see if you are feeding them, so please say you are feeding them out loud.
Katie, age 5 (Father’s note, Katie is blind, and she does cry if you don’t say you have fed the fish.)”

Mr. Rogers: “Since hearing from Katie, I’ve tried to remember to mention out loud those times that I’m feeding the fish. Over the years, I’ve learned so much from children and their families. I like to think that we’ve all grown together.”

Children who are blind probably did not make up a large number of Mr. Rogers’ viewers, but he changed a small part of his show just for them, just for Katie.

Most of the churches in my tradition are filled with people who know church-world. We don’t get a lot of visitors and people unfamiliar with how we do things, and so we forget that Katie is sitting in the pews some Sundays and doesn’t experience the morning the same way we do.  Katie:

  • doesn’t know what a “narthex” is or where to find it.
  • has never met Sally so isn’t sure how to “talk to Sally for more information about the Thursday morning Bible study.”
  • isn’t sure where coffee hour is and finds it easier just to walk out the front door
  • doesn’t know the Bible story that the pastor just said “everyone heard as a child.”
  • has never heard of “Children’s Church” and got a little nervous when after the children’s sermon all the kids (including her son) went with an unknown adult to a mystery location.
  • feels like an outsider listening to a prayer request that begins with “you all know that our family has been through a lot.”

We don’t do these things to purposely exclude people, but at times that’s what happens.  I pray that we can learn from Mr. Rogers who was willing to learn from Katie.

“Over the years, I’ve learned so much from children and their families. I like to think that we’ve all grown together.”