What Mr. Rogers Teaches Us About Reconciliation
It’s no surprise that when a Presbyterian minister wanted to heal the divide between blacks and whites, to show us how to serve each other, it looked very much like Jesus’ own servanthood. When Rogers asked Clemmons to become a police officer, he asked him to become the enemy in order to redeem the enemy—just as Jesus took on the form of his enemy to redeem us. And when Rogers shared his pool and wiped his friend’s feet with a towel, he was repenting through servanthood—the same servanthood that motivated Jesus to take up the towel the night before his death.
But both acts required humility. Both acts required relinquishing privilege—the privilege of anger on Clemmons’ part and the privilege of comfort on Rogers’ part. And through this humility, both men embody Christ: neither condescending to the other; both simply surrendering to the other. So that in the very same act, the humiliated are brought up and the proud are brought down.
In one brief scene on a children’s television show, we see this happen. We see two men humbling themselves. We see two men cleansing each other through acts of communion and identification. We see two men showing the world how reconciliation happens. And we hear Mr. Rogers say, in his own quiet voice, “Sometimes just a minute like this will really make a difference.”