Natasha Sistrunk Robinson: A Beautiful Influence

Reflections on legacy after watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Recently I watched the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the recent biopic on the life of Fred Rogers. I went with a dear friend who had never seen an episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood when she was growing up.

Throughout the film, she would reach across the snack box and tap my arm, “Did he really do that? Did he really say those things?” she would ask.

I smiled and nodded as I popped another french fry into my mouth. I grinned from ear to ear as I recalled childhood memories. I was struck with emotion while singing the songs and mimicking the friendly puppet characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. At times, I was moved to tears.

I did not know it when I was a child, but Fred Rogers was a Protestant minister who used the medium of television to share the gospel’s message of love for one’s neighbor. Following the model of Jesus, he paid special attention to “the least of these,” specifically children. His pulpit oozed love, truth and kindness, and that is why his influence continues to resonate more than a decade after his death.

What will your legacy be?

Influence is happening all of the time, and it’s everywhere around us. Whether we are reading the newspaper, searching the internet, watching our favorite television show or liking posts on social media, influence is happening to us and through us. Daily, advertisements tell us what we need while magazines inform us of what we cannot live without. Reality shows—even the family-friendly ones—prick our hearts and cause covetous spirits about decorations or cooking skills we do not have, singing or dancing talent that we long for or the significant other that we think we deserve. Whether these mediums are educational, practical or entertainment, we are being influenced.

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In the midst of all of this noise, I often ask, Where is God?

I believe that Mr. Rogers understood that all Christians are called to become people of influence. Whether leading a board meeting, mentoring young people, serving at a local church, parenting kids or teaching in the workplace, we are influencers. Therefore, it is critically important that we consciously consider whom and what we allow to influence us before we can determine how to influence others well for a lasting and even eternal impact.

Where do we get our guidance and inspiration to lead and influence well?

The apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17). When we forfeit so much of our time and mental capacity to the things that influence us, we are tempted to forget the basic and timeless truths of the Bible. God’s Word inspires and equips us to influence others well.

People in the world do not need another judgmental, condescending voice feeding our greed or telling us that we do not measure up. Like Mr. Rogers, we need to lovingly influence and inspire by holding fast to God’s Word—which is true—while passionately pursing the good work that he has assigned to each of our hands. We can faithfully do this work with love and kindness. After all, it is the Lord’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).

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