Letter From R. Freeman

Here is a beautifully phrased call to action from R. Freeman. Have you ever watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood?

 

Message to Millennials, “Won’t you be my Neighbor?”

 

For many us, childhood in the 1990’s was resplendent with faded jeans and scrunchies, box office hits of Disney animation, and the swift current of technology shifting from boxy desktops to swiping phones with fingertips. But perhaps the most endearing treasure of development came ripe from the decade just before with the v-necked, be-sneakered neighbor who brought us to the land of make-believe, but also helped us to confront the realities of how we as children experienced the ups and downs of our world.  Most of all, Fred Rogers taught community values through simplicity and authentic hospitality. While challenging issues were discussed, the neighborhood in which Mr. Rogers conversed with us, was a place of safety, peace, and sanctuary, not with artificiality and neon fantasy, but a street that could resemble our own.  

In 2017, we have come of age. We are confronted with a multitude of challenges and deep issues that shake the very core of not only our identity as Americans but as our very humanity. We are facing the epoch of an era that has the potential to bring about the greatest hopes and developments of the modern age but also teeters on the brink of destruction and disillusionment.  As we advance, and build, and boom into the century with high-speed, high-tech are we truly connected to the high-stakes at hand?  And can authentic connection bridge that deeper fusion of solidarity and empathy?  As we confront the brink of change, of despair, and perhaps even shock in the events and traumas faced on the headlines...how does this generation cope and comfort, build and create, mourn and heal?  How do we move within a decisive partisanship and an administration built on distrust, bullying, and further polarization from each other? What do we do now?

Though it might be difficult to fathom in the last few months, there is still time to do good and ultimately, to serve...And it starts at home.  As with so many great movements, the grassroots get to the deep spiritual marrow of social ills and violent plagues that grip us---the community is weathered and strengthened when all lend a hand and overcome together. So here and now, in 2017, are the top 5 ways we can be a neighbor...

  1. Be Aware-- issues go beyond pulpits and platforms into our own streets. We have an inordinate amount of human trafficking seeping through shadows where media and public eye don’t always view.  Being mindful of the environments and people around you is beyond a courtesy, and could actually be life-altering.  Trusting intuition and speaking up is critical to engaging in our world rather than a virtual reality.  Dignity begins with acknowledgment. 
  2. Be Attentive-- What do ballot measures actually mean?  How does your vote and your phone call or letter make an impact?  Far too many cities neglect to go beyond basic recycling services and continue to use plastic bags and packaging. While there are certainly global and national issues of the AZ pipeline and fracking that threaten our common home, it is worth being attentive to your own use of resources from water to gasoline. Start recognizing the interconnectedness of global and statewide issues in your community.
  3. Be Ambitious-- not for yourself, but for others.  In a society which values getting ahead, who gets left behind?  The Dream Act has allowed countless young people to attend college, regardless of their immigration status.  When we strive to better ourselves, do we protect the opportunities for others to do the same? What is our purpose for achievement and fulfillment?  Continuing in advancement of your education can be the biggest catalyst for change---learn a language, acquire a skill, pioneer a new idea and challenge an old one---all for the sake of compassionate progress.
  4. Be Active-- Civic engagement is a keystone to our national makeup, but it doesn’t end with voting.  Volunteerism and activism are the forces which drive change to happen...they are powerful tools that have shattered the silence from the hallowed halls of Montgomery, Alabama to the candle-lit streets of Chicago so that all lives, especially those of people of color, might matter and be cherished by country which reflects this in laws and attitudes. Dialogue takes worth that is worthwhile.
  5. Be-- we are often pegged as not a particularly religious generation...perhaps there are real hurts and wounds from institutions which have made hypocrisy from truth.  But faith, if not in a traditional sense, can move mountains.  We have witnessed the human family bond together when holy texts were burnt in Florida and when we mourned those grace-filled souls on that less than ordinary Sunday in Charleston.  Divinely inspired innovation and the spiritually crafted image in which we are created speaks to the most basic, intrinsic gift of our humanity. Pausing with intention through prayer or meditation, can move us from a reactionary stance to one of rekindled hope.  In our own limitations, joys, hopes, and sorrows, perhaps we find peace at last with ourselves and our neighbor.

As Fred Rogers expressed, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never dream of.  There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” And so my fellow millennials, let us rise and rise again---to meet what lies ahead, to get to know our neighbor, and exist in that value of solidarity which radiates through the most imminent darkness----Love.

 

-R. Freeman, California