What Do You Do

What Do You Do?

Is it possible to radically transform the world by doing what it is that you do? What if you are a salesman, a bar owner, a mailman, a mother, a father a police office, an accountant? Does it matter?

The question strikes me as we approach the readings for this Sunday after I recently saw the movie “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” This one and half hour biopic on the life of Fred Rogers was nothing short of extraordinary. Here was a guy who did television, children’s television specifically, and while the broadcast range of a television program may be a bit larger than the foot traffic at a retail store, his life was a case study in how, whatever your profession, you can have profound impact on the world.

Case in point is how there are many hundreds of people who did what he did (create children’s television programing) but few who made as much of an impact. I don’t believe it was necessarily what he did but how he did it that is important. The same is true of us.

We hear in the first reading today a reading from the prophet Amos (Am7:12-15), a lesser known prophet from the Old Testament. His real occupation is that of a shepherd, something he probably does well. But God calls him to prophesy and he does so with integrity. We may not recall Amos’ impact as directly today because we live thousands of years later, but by all historical accounts, the prophet Amos was highly regarded in the generations that followed him. He spoke truth a world which was very attracted to falsehoods.

Which is not unlike Mr Rogers.

Fred Roger’s formula was simple. He welcomed people. He treated them with respect. He believed that every person was lovable and loved. He accepted people.

This isn’t to say that he didn’t have detractors. A segment of the film included criticisms that he is responsible for raising a generation of people who felt they were “special” and therefore “privileged.” The critics seem themselves to be struggling with issues of worth and in need of a good neighbor who they could trust and would see the good in them. The critics didn’t seem to live next to Mr. Rogers.

It isn’t lost on me that Mr. Roger’s studied to become an ordained Christian minister. The words he spoke sound like that of a priest deeply connected to his church community. In all his television programs however, he never once tried to convert anyone or bend them toward his religious doctrine. He simply did his job with the same integrity that the prophet Amos did in the Old Testament. One could say he was like Saint Francis of Assisi who instructed others to “preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” That type of witness is possible for anyone in any occupation.

That is why a beautician can have integrity in her work and change the world. A teacher can teach with kindness and change the world. A lawyer can let their heart beat with a sense of justice and change the world. Whatever a person’s station in life, it seems like Mr. Rogers is a good example to follow.

In his introduction to the TV Hall of Fame, Fred Rogers surprisingly broke out the four-letter words and said “Fame is a four-letter word and like tape, or zoom, or face, or pain, or life, or love, what ultimately matters is what we do with it. “

None of us are called to be exactly like Mr Rogers or the Prophet Amos or even Saint Francis of Assisi. God doesn’t need us to be those people because he already has them in the manifold of heaven. What God needs is you and God wants to change the world by you being you, loving the world and others as only you can do. That kind of living is extraordinary. And possible for all of us.

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate





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