Virtuous Fame

Last year, I taught a confirmation class of 8th graders about famous Presbyterians. Although few really knew who he was, my favorite among those discussed was Fred Rogers.

With the release of the movie Won’t You Be My Neighbor, Mr. Rogers has once again become a topic of conversation. @vasta recounts his emotional experience of the film, which was colored by his lifelong admiration of the beloved children’s show host. One thing that stood out to him is that even Fred Rogers suffered from self-doubt.

About halfway through Won’t You Be My Neighbor , we discover a typewritten letter written by Fred Rogers that exposes his doubts, his uncertainty of whether he was up to the job. This was profound: I struggle with my doubts every day, as so many of us do, and always ask myself if I really can deliver on making the world better. I ask myself if my work matters, and even if it does, if it couldn’t be better done by someone else.

Fred Rogers taught me that “you don’t have to be sensational for people to love you,” but it was poignant to know that even someone as sensational as him had to battle self-doubt throughout his life.

Christ and Pop Culture provides an examination of how Mr. Rogers’ view of his role on television can inform our behavior on social media.

When accepting his induction in the Television Hall of Fame, Mr. Rogers said, “I feel that those of us in television are chosen to be servants. Doesn’t matter what our particular job, we are chosen to help the deeper needs of those who watch and listen, day and night.… We have only one life to live on earth, and through television we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life, or to cherish it in creative and imaginative ways.” This seems to be a great mission statement for our social media use. Not everyone has to be on social media, but those who are (in whatever way we are) can think of ourselves as chosen to be servants, as having a choice in how to engage. There are many ways to interact on the internet: What if we chose to interact in a way that helps others cherish this life?

With polarization, insecurity and animosity running high, it seems like an especially fitting time to remember this man.

Robert Rackley @rcrackley
Made with in North Carolina.
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