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At prayer breakfast, a lesson from Mister Rogers



Published: Tue, November 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The speaker, a longtime associate of Fred Rogers', gave the three R's for building one neighborhood.

By D.A. WILKINSON

VINDICATOR RELIGION EDITOR

YOUNGSTOWN -- It was a wonderful day in the neighborhood.

More than 350 Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of other faiths gathered this morning to learn about "Building One Neighborhood." The 16th annual community interfaith prayer breakfast, sponsored by the Mahoning Valley Association of Churches, was at the Maronite Center.

Fred Rogers, the force behind "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," was there in video clips.

Sharing: Hedda Sharapan, Rogers' longtime associate producer and co-editor of many of his publications, described how different communities can learn more about one another. Although the television show is not being produced, Rogers and Sharapan are still working on projects.

Rogers, Sharapan said, was once asked by a child how he got out of the box of the actual television. Rogers explained how people made the program that was shown on TV. Then the child asked, "How are you going to get back into the box?"

That illustrates how hard it can be to be in synchronization with others, even by experienced communicators, Sharapan said.

A video clip showed Rogers' smiling at his failure to clap, sing and move in sync with characters on the show. The clip was broadcast because it illustrated the first of three R's: respect.

"We all have things we can learn from one another," Sharapan said.

The speaker recalled that during a sweater exchange based on Rogers' signature garb on the show, he did not want it stated that the event was for the needy. Sharapan said Rogers pointed out that the donors and recipients each had strengths and weaknesses.

"We're all givers and receivers. We'll all the same," she said.

Relationships: The second R word was relationships. A unscripted video clip showed Rogers talking and singing with a young boy in a wheelchair about the good and the bad in life.

"Relationships are a mix," Sharapan said.

The song they sang began, "It's you I like, the way you are right now."

Paying attention to others is important in building the neighborhood, Sharapan said.

She quoted Allan Gurganus from his book "Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All."

"Notice is like oxygen," she said.

The last clip, which was never shown on television, showed Rogers struggling to erect a folding tent. Workers finally put it up off-camera, illustrating the third R: mutual responsibility, Sharapan said.

"To build a neighborhood, it takes a whole community," she added.

wilkinson@vindy.com




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