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August Pastor's Note

It has been such a gift to dwell with Mr. Rogers this summer! It amazes me that even now, 20 years after his death, his ministry speaks to us so clearly. I’ve read books and articles, listened to podcasts, and watched shows and movies by and about him, and it still gets me “in the feels,” in all the best ways.


Mr. Rogers created and voiced most of the puppets, but it was Daniel Striped Tiger who spoke most honestly from Mr. Rogers’ own heart. He asked the hard questions. What does “assassination” mean? He voiced his deepest, most vulnerable fears. “Sometimes I wonder if I’m a mistake.” And he expressed his social and emotional needs. He could say when he didn’t want to continue discussing a hard topic, and he could ask for a hug if he needed one.


When Mr. Rogers was away from set, interacting with children across the country, Daniel Striped Tiger would be at hand, ready to come out and break the ice, inviting children to meet Daniel (and Mr. Rogers) in that sacred space of being seen, heard, and appreciated. He served as an intermediary between Mr. Rogers and those with whom he was visiting.


There are also stories of memorable occasions during which Mr. Rogers pulled out Daniel Striped Tiger to talk to other adults. The puppet was responsible for the final thawing of tensions during negotiations with Russian officials regarding a children’s television program exchange (1). That was during the later years of the Cold War, as Gorbachev was initiating the new policy of glasnost. Who knew Daniel Striped Tiger was also an international diplomat?


NPR correspondent Susan Stamberg recalls preparing to host a live TV special directed at parents, focused on how to talk to their children about difficult topics. Though she initially agreed to host, she started getting very nervous. She wasn’t a TV personality! She knew someone else would do better, so she pulled out of the project. Soon after that, her phone rang. On the other end of the line, she heard the voice of Daniel Striped Tiger: “What’s wrong, Susan? You’re frightened, aren’t you? Tell me about it.” She began pouring her heart out to Daniel, and ended up feeling better, and hosting two specials (2).


I’d love for us to have more Mr. Rogers. He wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty great. Absent Mr. Rogers, maybe we could channel Daniel Striped Tiger. What if we could voice our fears and anxieties, ask questions about the world around us, and be clear about asking for what we need? What if we could cut through the pretenses and posturing, and interact honestly with other people and the world around us?


It feels risky, because it is. It’s quite counter-cultural. So is following Jesus. Mr. Rogers taught and modeled a different way of moving through the world, one focused on radical love and acceptance. He was following the way of Jesus.


Daniel Striped Tiger was one of the ways Mr. Rogers lived into his unique calling in the world. Living into our full, authentic selves invites others to do the same, each using our unique gifts. It’s the divine spark in each of us that meets the divine spark in others. What is your Daniel Striped Tiger? How do you live authentically and invite others to do the same?


I have so many concluding thoughts and questions as we come to the last few weeks of this season. But I’m especially curious to hear how you have been invited into the neighborhood this summer. What lessons from Mr. Rogers - and from Scripture - has your heart most needed to hear? I’d love to hear your responses!


I hope you have experienced some of the same joy that I have in working through this season. May we carry these lessons from the neighborhood with us, grounded by the love of God we know in Jesus Christ, and sharing that love with others.

Grace and Peace,

Stephanie



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