If I could choose a person to be my personal patron saint or even an additional Grandpa, I would likely choose Fred Rogers. I admire him so much – not only for his tremendous work but for his way of being in the world.
A couple of days ago, I ran across a testimony that demonstrated how crucial and life-saving his work truly was. It involved a continual commitment to remind vulnerable people how special and valuable they were. He changed the lives of children, including children who were abused at home. This testimony said,
“. . . he seemed to look me in the eye when he said, ‘And I like you just for being you’. In that moment, it was like he was reaching across time and space to say these words to me when I needed them most. . . I was sure I deserved every last moment of abuse, every blow, every bad name. I was sure I earned it, sure I didn’t deserve better. I knew all of these things … until that moment. If this man, who I hadn’t even met, liked me just for being me, then I couldn’t be all bad. Then maybe someone could love me, even if it wasn’t my mom.”
I believe we need a renewed commitment — as a spiritual leader, I will also say a renewed theological commitment — to uplift the intrinsic worth and value in human beings. We need this in the wake of hatred, poverty, racism, exclusion, violence, abuse, and more. . . These forces are intense and entrenched among us. They require us to speak truth to power, so I don’t mean to be reductionistic or say that a simple declaration of worth is all that it takes. But it’s never not about that.
It’s a life-giving, foundational truth, that —
despite the pain we know,
despite the pain we cause,
despite the harsh words we hear,
despite the harsh labels we believe,
despite the forces which declare some to be ‘less than,’
despite the despair which internalizes the same,
we are loved with a Love we cannot lose.
And that Love says that we are worth it.