When Morgan Neville won the Oscar for his documentary, Fifty Feet From Stardom, I wonder if he knew that his follow-up film was going to be In the Lap of Sainthood? For who can walk away from his Mister Rogers bio, Won’t You Be My Neighbor and not feel like canonizing Fred Rogers? I can’t tell you how much my heart needed it, the perfect antidote to the toxicity in the world today.
It is the story of something quite profound, a good man. There’s no final reveal, it was all an act or he was a closeted fascist, but rather the story of a kind and loving man who went to great lengths and drew on deep resources to lift up and support children. No hidden agendas. (Yes, he was a Christian, but one that didn’t see his religion as an exclusive, judgmental, self-congratulatory club. If you want to know what uncompromising Christianity looks like in action, look no further. This is it. Fred Rogers lives it: It is love.)
No dark secrets. Just kindness and love. And if you think that that doesn’t sound like much of a movie, than you’ve been poisoned by our world of cynicism, addiction to sensationalism, schadenfreude, snarky tweets and Facebook posts, hypocrisy, and public take downs. Cleanse your system. Renew your heart and your hope. Resurrection your faith in the good people around you. (They are there, buried beneath all the garbage, in schools, churches, soup kitchens, in the silence and quiet drowned out by talk radio, in our children’s hopes and potential, in our families).
There’s a moment at the end of the Mr. Rogers movie when all the interviewees are asked to pause in silence and think of one person in their lives whom, when they needed help, helped them.
In the movie, the camera lingers as each person thinks. Then each remembers that person who was there for them, and their faces change. A light from within shines out. You sit in your seat in the theater and can feel it. Then they name the person, and you can hear in their voice the love and gratitude they feel, but also in their eyes you can see their renewed faith that there are so many good people in the world.
Come back to the neighborhood, that place where all are welcome and all are loved.