Open Tables, Welcome Tables, and Celebrating Mr. Rogers

Those of us who revere the late Fred Rogers for his thoughtful and gentle espousal of acceptance, tolerance, kindness, and neighborliness are thrilled by an emerging campaign to make 143 Day a national holiday.  We can be proud that Pennsylvania, his home state, made such a move two years ago.  What an inspiring contrast to militants who are suggesting a day of infamy – January 6th – be turned into a celebration.

One of Fred Rogers’ many ways of illustrating what neighbors do for each other is sharing a home-cooked meal with someone who is hungry.  We can see similar spirit reflected in the Open Table, an inclusive initiative featured in recent LAMPa posts.  Bringing individuals to the table of support and services builds the foundational relationships on which strong and livable communities are anchored.

How refreshingly different this seems from so much of the selfish political drivel that seeks to prevent others from getting in the door, much less having a seat at the American table.  Think of the significance of a warm welcome, without suspicion or judgment.  No one is asked to produce citizenship papers or show Voter ID.  No one is asked to document health care coverage or the means to acquire it.  No one is asked to declare their allegiance to any divisive political issue or personality.

Our language has been so twisted that the word “open” has become synonymous with the loss of safety and multiple threats to communities and culture.  Fortunately, people of faith, through word and action, are preserving the true meaning of open, as in open hearts and open minds and open acceptance.

Part of our challenge in restoring virtues and values and vitality to American life is to shift focus.  Center stage seems occupied by the democracy demolishing demagogues, who seek to dictate what we believe, what we learn, and how we act.  How much better off we will be when caring, compassionate, and constructive partnerships such as Open Table are in the spotlight.

Each week in worship, we are given a blessed new chance to hear and understand the Word.  Every day, we should appreciate the work of advocacy groups such as ELCA Advocacy, LAMPa, and the Interfaith Immigration Coalition to suggest how we can effectively make a difference in the world beyond our congregational walls.  The more we respond to their calls to action, the better the chances our faith-based morals and ethics will be part of public decision making and policy setting.  When that happens, it will be a hallelujah day, as uplifting as 143 Day.

David Atkinson, a member of Lower Susquehanna Synod’s AMMPARO task force, did policy and communications work in the Pennsylvania Senate for thirty-five years and is a long-time member of Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Susquehanna Township. He writes commentary and scripts for history documentaries for the Susquehanna Valley Center for Public Policy. He also coauthored a political memoir of state Senator Robert C. Jubelirer titled The Senate Will Come To Order; But The Politics May Be Messy and was an interviewer for an oral history of The Reverend Doctor Ken Senft titled: A Life Of Faith. Atkinson also served for thirteen years on the Pennsylvania Public Television Network Commission.



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