Fred Rogers, “Mr. Rogers” to most of us, captured the hearts, minds, and imaginations of individuals, families, and communities throughout his life. He did so through simple messages related in ways that children and adults alike could understand and appreciate. His oft-repeated message was clear and direct, “I like you just the way you are. Not for who you will become in the future, but for who you are today.” Young or old, child or parent, that message is essential for us to hear and re-hear often, and to share with others frequently.
Who you are today is a person of importance and value to your family, your friends and neighbors, your employer, your school, your team, your community, and the world. Each of us is valuable and has something meaningful to contribute today, the contribution of which will brighten a day, lift a spirit, encourage or empower another, reminding each one that they are seen and known and worthy of our attention just because they are human.
Victor Frankl remarked, “The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love - the more human he is.” This is a great summary of what happens at The Pack Shack’s crazy fun Feed the Funnel parties: We express our shared humanness by serving others! This is why the tagline of The Pack Shack is “HUMANITY vs Hunger.”
The Funnel has the peculiar ability to unite people around a common table and desire: to provide food for our neighbors in need. The Funnel is generationally, ethnically, economically, socially, and religiously inclusive. As we like to say, “The ground is level at the Funnel.” Each person performs an important job, whether scooping rice, weighing, sealing or boxing bags, refilling ingredients, running, dancing or smashing the gong. Everyone contributes in a meaningful way to our neighbors in need by providing food and hope.
Mr. Rogers is perhaps best known for asking the question, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” When answering yes to that question, each of us proclaims, “I see you, and I like you just the way you are today. I see what’s beautiful in you, and I see the challenges you face. I see the value you have for the world today, and I have compassion as you encounter difficulties on the journey. And because I am your neighbor, I will celebrate your triumphs and help you when needs arise.” Surely each of us longs to have a neighbor or two such as this, and surely each of us desires to be such a neighbor … to live fully human. May we be so inspired and so courageous!
Bret Raymond is the Co-founder and CEO of The Pack Shack (www.thepackshack.org), a nonprofit organization that supplies provisions and opportunities for our neighbors in need. Connect with him at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.