“I’ve always wanted to have a neighbor just like you.”
“Be A Good Neighbor Day of service aims to create a sense of
community on campus while working alongside neighborhoods that focus civic
engagement and enhances the collaborative power of community service.”
– University of Pittsburgh Student Affairs March 30th, 2019
Be A Good Neighbor Day is meant to honor Pittsburgh’s friendly neighbor, Mr. Rogers, near his birthday, March 20th. Fred was born in 1928. He went to school at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and was ordained at Third Presbyterian Church to a special television ministry, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I watched his program as a child and I stood in the places he stood as an adult. Mr. Rogers has left a legacy of love in Pittsburgh and I hope to honor that legacy as every Yinzer hopes. I hope that Be A Good Neighbor Day helps non-Pittsburgh-native students understand a little of what it means to love your neighbor just the way they are, like Mr. Rogers did, like Jesus calls us all to do.
“All we’re ever asked to do in this life is to treat our neighbor—especially our neighbor who is in need—exactly as we would hope to be treated ourselves. That’s our ultimate responsibility.”
― Fred Rogers, Life’s Journeys According to Mister Rogers: Things to Remember Along the Way
On that Saturday morning, 33 Pitt Students arrived at Third Church, only one of which had ever been to the Days for Girls sewing project before. It was a busy morning and I forgot to put out the sign-in sheet, so their names were not recorded. If I’m honest, this is not the first time I’ve forgotten the sign-in sheet and it likely won’t be the last. I’ve entered over 130 names into a spread sheet and there are probably 50 or so names on hand written sheets that I have yet to enter. Data entry is not one of my spiritual gifts. It’s on my summer to-do list with the hope of communicating better with volunteers this fall. The goal for now, is to create a space where students feel heard, understood, and loved while they meet their service hour requirements.
“Listening and trying to understand the needs of those we
would communicate with seems to me to be the essential prerequisite of any real
communication. And we might as well aim for real communication.”
― Fred Rogers, You Are Special: Neighborly Wit and Wisdom from Mister Rogers
Once the group has their instructions and the basement is buzzing, I try to visit each table to answer questions, check work, listen, and to build connections. At one table making liners, I struck up a conversation about other reusable menstrual products. Three of the four students at the table were asking questions and sharing stories. I could tell the forth one was paying close attention but hadn’t engaged just yet. I looked at her and caught her eye. She said, I think reusable pads and cups are important, but I don’t get a period. I practiced the pause waiting for her to fill in more detail if she chose. Another student said she wished she didn’t have a period. I said I wasn’t sure I would trade my period for the other health issues that come with not having one. Pause. The second student said the one without a period, sorry, are you ok? Yes, and no. Her ovaries are full of cysts. She doesn’t ovulate the majority of the time and has only had two periods in her lifetime. She needs hormone injections. Sometimes, her symptoms are painful. I thanked her for sharing. We really don’t hear stories about women’s health in such a personal way; her sharing was a gift. I was called away the next moment, and as I walked to the next table I could hear the other students asking her about how her illness has affected her life and choices for the future. She mentioned adoption and finding a special someone who would be open to that. I don’t think those students knew each other before being ushered to the same sewing table, but they do now. When students are listened to, really listened to, they feel connected and loved. People who experience empathy, will be empathetic. People who are loved will be loving. Mr. Rogers would be proud.
“You know, I think everybody longs to be loved, and longs to
know that he or she is lovable. And consequently, the greatest thing we can do
is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.”
― Fred Rogers