The first lesson – We are all neighbors. With his theme song, Mr. Rogers extended an invitation, but I think it was also a challenge. He wanted us all to be neighbors. He wanted us to love to each other. As Freemasons, we are admonished to remember our four fold duty to God, our Family, our Neighbor and ourselves. We are also taught that one of the tenets of Freemasonry is Brotherly Love. Brotherly Love teaches us that we are all members of the same planet, and that we need to aid, support and protect each other. It is by the practice of brotherly love that Masons can be united regardless of nationality, religion, or station in life. The Odd Fellows also teach us to respect and love each other. The first link of Friendship, teaches us to respect each other and to extend to everyone a hand of friendship regardless of their station in life. As the middle link in their chain of Friendship, Love and Truth, they share the idea that each of us are neighbors, and to love each other as such.
The second lesson – It’s our responsibility to take care of the less fortunate and that we can make a difference in our neighborhood. Yes, Mr. Rogers in his own unique way taught us to extend charity and to have compassion, and that you could do this in your neighborhood. Another tenet of Freemasonry is Relief. Masonic relief is defined by practicing charity and by caring, not only for their fellow Masons, but also for the community as a whole. We do this by charitable giving, by voluntary efforts and by our works as individuals. The first link of the Odd Fellows chain, Friendship, teaches us that by the kind feelings of Friendship, we are moved to help each other. The second link, Love, is the outpouring of this affection to one another in the form of charity. As the duties of the Odd Fellow are “to visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan”, it is their love that enables to do this with compassion. The valediction also says that your community deserves your best work.
The third lesson – It’s important for you to love and to take care of yourself. In his own way, Mr. Rogers taught us to love ourselves. He taught us that it’s okay to have feelings, because everyone has them. He also taught us that we need to be able to stop bad actions before they begin. Mr. Rogers stressed the need for outlets to help control your emotions, he used swimming to express his emotion; but he also was a vegetarian, who didn’t smoke and rarely drank. He played piano, studied the bible, and he never rushed himself. Masonically, we are taught to subdue our passions and to improve ourselves in Masonry. Improving ourselves, is part of taking care of ourselves. By improving ourselves in Masonry, we strive for the tenet of Truth, which requires high moral standards and aims for us to achieve them in our own lives. Freemasons believe that the principles of Freemasonry represent a way of achieving higher standards in life. The last link in the Odd Fellows chain, Truth, teaches the same concept. Odd Fellows possesses truth in the "inward parts," they aim to continually possess and practice it.
Something that might surprise you about Mr. Rogers is that he practiced a little numerology. Now before you think I’m accusing Mr. Rogers of being an occultist, I want to be clear that his belief was benign. In Fred’s case, he believed in the power of 143. He claimed to have remained this weight for the last 30 years his life. But more importantly, it was an expression of his philosophy. He said: “It takes one letter to say I and four letters to say love and three letters to say you. One hundred and forty-three.”
Ultimately, the last and most important lesson that Mr. Rogers taught was to always act according to your principles. Although he often brought us to a land of make believe, Mr. Rogers was authentic in life. He was the exemplar for practicing what he preached. In today’s day and age, it’s something that we all (Freemason, Odd Fellow, or just human) need to try to strive for. All too often, I go on social media to see Masons (myself included) not subduing their passions. So I’ve decided personally that if I come upon some of my brethren acting against the tenets of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth or Friendship, Love and Truth, to ask them “What would Mr. Rogers do?” If we all followed the lessons of Mr. Rogers, and our Freemason and/or Odd Fellow degrees; I think that it would be a beautiful neighborhood.