By Loraine Debnam
Since he is one of my favorite actors, I was thrilled when Tom Hanks received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Fred Rogers in “It’s a beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”.
This series ran on the Public Broadcasting System in the United States for over three decades and Mr. Rogers influenced many young people over that time. He was dedicated to making the world a better place with a sense of moral and ethical reasoning by showing tolerance, inclusion, community service, outreach and sharing. His song “Won’t You be My Neighbor?” is still sung by children in schools, clubs and youth groups. His theme always was that kindness triumphs over cynicism. I know that many ridicule that gentle fellow in his red cardigan with his soft voice and caring manner but I also know that when we are particularly delighted with the weather or the view or whatever, we often hear his trademark phrase. His assistant puppeteer and close friend was Ernie Coombs whom many Canadians grew to love as Mr. Dress Up. Along with characters Casey and Finnegan and costumes from his “Tickle Trunk”, our kids learned similar kind and caring behaviors.
My question is – what responsibility do each of us have in the evolution of our neighborhoods? If we only protest and grumble as new developments and inhabitants join us, are we really doing our communities a service? We have a spirit of free speech (for which I am very grateful as I write this column) and are willing to let the other side have their opinion. I’m not saying that we should embrace every change naively believing that it will be good for us and good for our region. But I am saying that sometimes changes need more support than we give them.
When I worked with young people in committees or clubs, part of the code of conduct they learned was that once a motion is carried or a project is adopted by the majority, everyone in the group worked to make it a success, even if they initially voted against it. If they are not able to do that and want to undermine the activity, they should excuse themselves from the club. Democracy has to work. The majority has had its say and individuals cannot continually weaken the fabric by backroom politicking or negative media coverage. Change happens. Sometimes it is progress and sometimes it’s not. It’s up to us to determine when it is time to do battle and when it is time to accept with grace and courtesy that our way is not the choice of the greater number.
We all have to work together and live together in harmony. Part of the example we set for the next generation is how we deal with differences and difficulties on an ongoing basis. There are those who have a “not in my backyard” attitude but there are many backyards where neighbors get together for BBQs and wiener roasts and good conversations. Those are the times when you really know that “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”.