A View From The Center of Town: Neighbors and Rutherfordians
Submitted by Pete Wilkinson
The movie, ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’, is going to be released later this year. It’s the story, of course, of Fred Rogers, who created the children’s
television show ‘Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood’ for National Public Television.
The show entertained and educated children and adults for more than thirty years through vignettes and conversations among people in an imaginary neighborhood. For both older and younger generations he modeled ways of engaging in life-affirming conversations with a sense of curiosity.
As we are about to begin a new school year, I am curious as to how we choose to live as “neighbors” in Rutherford. Often, I hear people who have grown up and lived their lives in this town being described as “Rutherfordians”.
“Rutherfordians”, at their best have lived in our community long enough to support the town and their neighbors through their participation in community activities. A “Rutherfordian” brings a cup of coffee to a school crossing guard. He or she will drive a neighbor to a doctor’s appointment. They will help shovel snow for an older neighbor and ask how things are going. A “Rutherfordian” is excited to see children grow up and will come to Lincoln Park on the evening of the Senior Prom to see how young people are growing up. We have a sense of pride regarding our life here. To be a “Rutherfordian” can be a positive way to affirm our identities as members of this community.
But, “Rutherfordians” are new, too. Someone who moved here recently or just this summer contributes to the health and vibrancy of our life together just as much as those who have been here for a long time. How do we intentionally share, through our acts and actions, our thoughts and our words, the essence of the neighborly traits and values that we uphold and value as a community? I believe our town and our neighborhoods, become havens of hope and support as we look at all of us as “Rutherfordians”. As we live out and share the traits of
engagement, and as we care for each other, I believe we strengthen the core of our life together. I also believe these traits align with the model Mr. Rogers shared for a generation. The lessons of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood can be shared and transmitted to our children both through the things we do, and the things we choose not to do.
Mr. Rogers was someone who lifted up for a generation of people, the traits of kindness and compassion. He reminded people that having a sense of curiosity was a positive tool in order to learn and develop meaningful relationships with people who were different from them. He shared the importance of affirming the good in people and the search for that good as a starting point to develop and deepen relationships with those around us.
From my view in the Center of Town, I find myself more and more curious to see how we will choose to be “Rutherfordians” together. How do we choose to pass along to the next generations (this includes adults who are moving into town) the traits of being engaged, supportive, neighbors? How will we watch out for those in need or distress? How will we support children as they grow up and are educated in our schools? How will we continue to be mindful of the older members of our community? How will we support those who are living with and living through struggles because they are different, or at risk? How do we celebrate moments of success? How might we walk with people facing trials? I suspect our answers to these questions, might be helpful indicators of how we define our lives as “neighbors” or “Rutherfordians” in these challenging times.
One last thought from Mr. Rogers: “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed."
I look forward to my encounters with all our Rutherfordians so together we can learn how we will live and celebrate our lives with one another. I hope to see you sometime, in the Center of Town.