“Its a beautiful day in the neighborhood, A beautiful day for a neighbor . . . Won’t you be my neighbor?”
— Fred M. Rogers
For years, I heard the words of that song as my little children gathered to watch “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” on television.
What a welcoming song! Fred Rogers looked straight into the camera as he donned his cardigan zip-up sweater and his sneakers, offering a personal invitation to the children to be his neighbor. The invitation was well-received – the children loved being a neighbor in Mister Rogers’ neighborhood.
Everyone wants to be invited. Invitations validate us. We are worthy. We count.
This was the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry. “Come,” he would say. “Come to me.”
And, it’s fun to be a neighbor. Warmed by the grace of the invitation, the invited neighbor gets involved in the life of another. Hearts connect. Life takes on new meaning.
Opportunities to invite another to be a neighbor exist everywhere. Neighborhoods are everywhere. There are neighborhoods where we live, where we play, where we work, where we go to school, where we worship.
As a pastor, I have spent considerable time in the neighborhood of worship. We have teams of folk who serve as inviters – greeters, welcomers. Invitation is an operative word for our worshipping neighborhood. In fact, we strive for invitation to be the operative word.
We invite others to worship with us, we invite those in the community to eat with us, to be with us, to worship with us. We invite others to learn of God’s great invitation of love.
Inviting others to be our neighbor is a most privileged opportunity. In the United Church of Christ we celebrate that privilege in October through our national Neighbors In Need offering. This offering is just that – an offering to those in need to become our neighbors, so that we may share our lives with them. The offering supports local programs whose goal is to lend a hand to their neighbors.
At the Fairfield Suisun United Church of Christ, we have been blessed to receive gifts for our church’s food distribution program from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, from the Neighbors In Need program of the Justice and Witness Ministry of the Northern California Nevada Conference of the United Church of Christ, and from a sister church, Orinda Community Church.
These generous givers invite us to be their neighbors. We in turn invite those in need to join us for meals and food. As we invite these folk to be our neighbors, an amazing thing happens. They in turn invite us to be their neighbors. The neighborhood grows, empowered by love.
Each of us has opportunities to invite others to be our neighbors. No matter who we are, no matter where we are, we have gifts and opportunities to invite others in a neighborly way.
In this fast-paced world, it may feel that the concept of neighbor and neighborhoods is long gone. Not so. As long as there is more than one person on this earth, the opportunity for neighboring exists.
We are privileged to give the invitation.
We hear God’s call, “Come. Won’t you be my neighbor?” May we not only hear the call to be a neighbor, but may we, in God’s grace, reach out to another.
Won’t you be my neighbor?
The Rev. Lee Cruise is the pastor at Suisun Fairfield Congregational Church in Suisun City. She can be reached at [email protected]