Our Core Connectivity guest blogger, Dr. Susan G. Weinberger, founder of the Mentor Consulting Group in Norwalk, CT, is a dear friend and colleague. Over the past 12 years we have shared a passion to respond to the issues of modern youth by educating one another about the simple ways love is experienced as a type of devotion, a mentoring of mutual respect and trust in human relations. In this hyper-connected world, fear-based thoughts and experiences are hyped with great intensity impacting young and old alike. And it is easy to believe that love doesn’t have a chance in a world that features hate streaming into the home feeds of apps and devices and consuming all our attention if we allow it. In this feature, Dr. Weinberger offers a simple, Biblical message of love for people of all creeds. This is her very sincere, painful and still hope-filled response to the Pittsburgh Massacre.
(Note: Featured image is from Thirteen.org)
The deadliest anti-Semitic hate crime at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh occurred during worship services on October 27, 2018. Eleven congregants were murdered. Another eight were injured and hopefully, are recovering. This incident was not the first time that Americans have witnessed brutal shootings, many with hate as the motive.
Tree of Life Synagogue is in the Squirrel Hill section of Pittsburgh. I received my undergraduate degree right down the street at Carnegie-Mellon University. My husband, a Pittsburgh native lost the younger brother of his childhood friend in the massacre. Ironically, Mr. Fred Rogers, an ordained minister who taught children how to love through his television programs lived in Squirrel Hill. I wonder what he would say about this horrific crime if he were alive today? When Mr. Rogers was a boy and would see scary things in the news, his mother would say to him “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Surely with all the horrible events of the recent past, people have always rushed to help. The incident last week was no exception.
Parents are a child’s first teacher. Can parents teach their children to love not to hate? I think so. We seem to use the word “hate” often to describe a food we do not want to eat, a chore we hate doing and some children can be heard saying that they hate school. I am beginning to think that hate is too strong a word to be used so loosely to describe all kinds of things and people that children do not like. Maybe the word should be eliminated from the dictionary. At the least, can the four-letter word “hate” be replaced by another four-letter word, “love?” Parents might choose to address their children’s hateful comments as soon as they hear them with questions. What about dislike as an alternative? What did you mean when you said this? Isn’t there a better way to describe the situation? How can you turn that feeling into something positive?
When I was a kid, I remember the sentence “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never harm me.” The earliest citation is from an American periodical, The Christian Recorder in March 1862.
The sentence appears antiquated today because words matter!
Chris Bernholdt wrote (“Hate Too Easy to Learn so Parents Must Teach Children Love Instead” October 19, 2017) that hate is too easy. We turn hate on like the flick of a switch or, all too often, the trigger of a gun, she wrote. Bernholdt went on to say that hate is fueled by misconceptions and a lack of acceptance for people who look, act or seem different to us. Hate serves no purpose, Chris said. Love more, hate less, be compassionate, be helpful and lift others up when they are too far down to get back up.
Parents can teach their children about the meaning of kindness, love, fondness, approval, respect and like and how they can replace the word “hate” and all it means. Parents can choose to lead by example and replace hate with love in their own language, too.
Why is it that this year the teachings of Mr. Rogers are being remembered in significant ways: a postage stamp in his honor, a wonderful documentary and a soon-to-be released movie about his life and teachings with Tom Hanks staring as Rogers? I believe we, as a people have a desperate need to turn to Mr. Rogers for inspiration, comfort and to be reminded what he taught us about love and how we can do the same. The host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood tried to teach us how to navigate the difficulties in our everyday life. On his daily shows for kids, he taught caring, kindness and trust. Mister Rogers didn’t call us “acquaintances” or “friends”; he didn’t call us “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen.” He called us neighbors. He also taught us to help others.
“Neighbor” is biblical language. The Hebrew Bible instructs God’s people to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Lev. 19:18), and in the New Testament, Jesus discusses this commandment with a legal expert who is trying to lay a conversational trap for him (Luke 10:25-37).
“And who is my neighbor?” the scholar asks, like a sly Thanksgiving table guest or a social media troll. And Jesus answers, like Mister Rogers might, with a story.
In the story, a man is beaten by thieves and left to die. A priest—a powerful man, both religiously and politically—approaches, sees the injured man, and crosses to the other side of the road to avoid helping. Another religious leader does the same. Finally, someone else comes down the road, someone who is the wrong class or the wrong color, a member of a despised group. He is on a journey, but he stops. He is “moved with compassion” and tends the injured man, takes him to an inn, and pays for his lodging and care.
“What do you think?” Jesus asks his tricky interlocutor. “Which one of these three was a neighbor?”
And though perhaps he can’t believe he is saying so, the scholar answers, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.”
When Mister Rogers called us neighbors, when he hosted us in his own Neighborhood for over 30 years, he was calling us—gently but firmly—out of our structures of power and our silos of sameness, into lives of mercy and care for one another.
Many parents today were not brought up with Mister Rogers and his television programming. It is never too late. Maybe it would be a good idea to sit with their children and watch the reruns. It could be a lesson for all the family.
Rabbi Menachem Creditor wrote lyrics from There Is Hope, released on November 18, 2016, (inspired by Tanakh Psalms 89). He wrote: “I will build this world from love. And you must build this world from love. And if we build this world from love then God will build this world from love.” It is time for us to be deliberate in building a world filled with love not hate.
Guest blogger, Dr. Susan Weinberger can be reached at the Mentor Consulting Group.
About: We are a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. Our mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God, the Creator of all humanity, grants every human being intelligence and free will to choose what to believe, and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your donations are greatly appreciated. (Donations are payable to Banana Moments Foundation).
Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and consultant on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber-powered world. She is a former technology executive trained in behavioral science at U.C. Berkeley, a mother of two grown sons, and an author of books for practical guidance on parenting, growing up and family life in the network culture. As a family and technology culture advisor, Joanna has appeared on 103.9FM The Fish, 710AM Keeping Faith in America, 1380AM The Answer, and Examiner.com.