My husband and I were recently watching a trailer from the new Mr. Rogers documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? and at the end he said to me, "You know, you and Mr. Rogers have the same mission.'
I never realized it before, but he's right.
Like most kids my age, I grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. What child didn't love the gentle man in the grandpa cardigan, and the colorful characters that populated his world? His opening song is one I'm sure many know by heart.
Each week he'd invite millions of small listeners into his home to share stories, interact with quirky characters, and perform puppet shows. Mr. Rogers loved kids and knew they were capable of great feeling and understanding. He didn't patronize them, but spoke to them in a simple, straight-forward way. Most importantly, he taught them to love themselves and love others.
To Fred Rogers, a former Presbyterian minister, love was the center of everything.
In the same way, my mission is to help kids to know they're loved and valued for who they are. Mr Rogers' medium was his T.V. show; mine is a portrait. Whether it's a commission for one of the families I work with regularly, or a special series of portraits for Streets Ministries, I hope to inspire these children to believe in themselves and their potential. They are capable of making a difference in the world and their dreams do matter.
Because if you have that confidence in yourself and you treat others with love and respect, there's nothing you can't do.
Mr. Rogers' mission came from his Christian faith. Like me he both believed in the love of God and the worth of each individual. In the Bible we see how much Jesus loved children and always made time for them. Mr. Rogers was the same way.
I want these children, all children, to love themselves and to go out and love others. Because like Mr. Rogers knew, love changes the world.