The Christopher Awards are just around the corner; next Thursday, to be exact. It’s made me think back to one of the best Christopher Award moments in the 17 years that I’ve worked here: Fred Rogers’ acceptance speech when “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” won the 2001 Special Christopher Award.
An ordained Presbyterian minister, Mr. Rogers shared a message that all of us who practice communication for a living – as well as those who simply communicate with others on a daily basis – can apply to our lives. This is what he said:
By now, you probably know what I believe: That at the center of the universe there dwells a loving spirit who longs for all that’s best in all of creation – a spirit who knows the great potential of each planet, as well as each person, and who, little by little, will love us into being more that we ever dreamed possible.
When I was a seminary student taking my first homiletics course, one Sunday I heard the worst sermon anyone could ever give…I thought! A substitute preacher had come to our church and, in his sermon, went against every rule that we had been taught in class. As he finished, I was ready to give him my unspoken failing grade; but I happened to look at the woman who was sitting beside me. With moist eyes, she turned and said, ‘That preacher said exactly what I needed to hear.’
Well, that service turned out to be one of the most important times of my life. Obviously, something had happened between that preacher’s poor sermon and that woman in need. It hadn’t happened to me. Of course, I had come there in judgment – not in need.
Ever since that day, I have recognized that the space between a person who is doing his or her best and a person who has come in need – that space is holy ground. The Holy Spirit can use whatever we offer to speak to another person’s heart. So whenever I make a television program or give a speech or just talk with a neighbor, I realize that all I need to do is give the best that I can, and God will translate it into whatever is needed most.
The Christophers have recognized this for many years. You have known that the most important part of any communication is what takes place in that holy ground…beyond human control. And that will always be.
So all of us at Family Communications thank you for your generous reception of our work. Even to be considered in the company of all who have ever received your honor, as well as all of you who are here this evening is award enough for anybody.
Through the years, it seems to me that you have agreed on the importance of nourishing the human spirit. Before I say ‘Good Night,’ would you take just a minute to think of someone who has nourished your spirit, someone who has cared for you, encouraged you to believe that you’re welcome in this life – someone who has loved you into being?
Whether that person is here tonight or far away or even in heaven, let’s just be grateful for those who have become such an important part of who we are…
Whoever your special person or persons are, imagine how grateful they must be to know that you recognize what a difference they have made in your life.
For more than 50 years, The Christopher have made a difference. May you continue to light your candles in a darkness that must never overtake the good. Continue to light the way along that holy ground of our being. Thank you very much.