A Moment of Inspiration

Another story honoring Mister Rogers.

Several friends have shared this photo of Mister Rogers and Officer Clemmons cooling their feet together in a pool, and I wanted to learn more about it, especially on this day, the first day of Spring, which also happens to be Fred Rogers’ birthday.

Several months after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, when riots were erupting in black neighborhoods across the nation, Fred Rogers approached Francois Clemmons after hearing him sing in a church. He asked him to join him on his show, to be a police officer, which was a radical idea at that time – a black police officer keeping families safe in the Neighborhood.

Clemmons would remember:

“I grew up in the ghetto. I did not have a positive opinion of police officers. Policemen were siccing police dogs and water hoses on people. And I really had a hard time putting myself in that role. So I was not excited about being Officer Clemmons at all.”

But, he trusted Fred Rogers, and in August 1968, Francois Clemmons debuted as Officer Clemmons on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood (MRN). He would become the first African-American to have a recurring role on a kids TV series, and he would continue to have that role for the next 25 years.

Which brings us to the famous scene. It was 1969, shortly after the first anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King, when Mister Rogers on a hot day invited Officer Clemmons to join him in soaking his feet in a wading pool.

Clemmons remembers: “He invited me to come over and to rest my feet in the water with him.” He continued, with emotion, “The icon Fred Rogers not only was showing my brown skin in the tub with his white skin as two friends, but as I was getting out of that tub, he was helping me dry my feet.”

Many people saw this as a symbolic message from Mister Rogers, a radical idea at the same time when the news also featured a white man throwing acid into a “whites only” motel pool to rid the pool of black swimmers.

But, it wasn’t anything new for Mister Rogers. When the show went national in 1979, when a white backlash against the civil rights movement was occurring, Mister Rogers received a visit at home from Mrs. Saunders, an African American teacher, and a small interracial group of her students, showing that at least in this Neighborhood, white and black neighbors can live peacefully together.

In 1975, Mister Rogers would also introduce Mayor Maggie, a character played by African American actor Maggie Stewart, who would become King Friday’s political equal and even had the assistance of a white underling, Associate Mayor Aber (played by the blond and blue-eyed Chuck Aber).

Years later, in 1993, Officer Clemmons would make his last appearance on MRN, and, in a touching moment, Mister Rogers would again invite Officer Clemmons, again joining Rogers at a wading pool in the front yard. This time, two grown men, one white, one black, as they soaked their feet together, discussed and sang a song about the different ways people say “I love you.”

Clemmons would remember that the scene touched him in a way he hadn’t expected.

As they said their goodbyes, with Mister Rogers thanking Officer Clemmons for joining him, Officer Clemmons would emotionally respond, thanking Mister Rogers and saying:

“I like being a human being right here and now.”


Respecting Differing Opinions

There has been a big debate about respecting other people’s ideas on social media lately. The election cycle seems to bring out both the best and worst in people.

I have a few things to say on the issue.

1) We don’t have to respect other people’s beliefs and ideas.

2) We do have to respect people for who they are.

3) Sometimes it is hard to do, but we have to try.

4) When we hold other people’s beliefs and see where they are coming from it can help us respect other and grow together in learning and searching for what is true.

This sermon from October 18, 2015 talks about how to do just those things.
Here is a link to the podcast and a link to the First UU of Austin page which has a transcript and a video of the sermon.
Hope you enjoy and are inspired.


[First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin] Dialogue with conservatives => http://podplayer.net/#/?id=8244801 via @PodcastAddict


Courage For Black Lives Matter: Love Letter to White Unitarian Universalists (and other white folks too) – See more at: http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/courage-for-blacklivesmatter-hesaid/#sthash.fngOiGJa.dpuf

“The Black Lives Matter movement is the leading struggle for racial justice of our times. It is a movement led by Black people who are women, queer, youth, working class, including Black UUs around the country. It is a movement to end institutional racism and to respect the inherent worth and dignity of all people. It is a movement for collective liberation.”

This article  by Chris Crass is about why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important to UUs. It also has some great ideas on how to support the movement towards the end of the article.




How an Austin church agreed to offer an immigrant sanctuary | UU World

“The call for sanctuary for Sulma Franco came to First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, where I’m senior minister, because we have the reputation of being welcoming to LGBT folks, and because the Rev. Marisol Caballero, minister of religious education and congregational engagement, had been doing antiracism work within the congregation and beyond. Word had gotten out in the immigrant community.

Could we help?”


Courage leads to change in this world.

This congregation lived out the first and second principles.


The Dangers of a Single Story

The Nigerian story teller, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, explains in this video how stories give us different views of the world. With humor, grace, and personal anecdotes, she illustrates that the single story creates incomplete stereotypes which makes people lives a flat experience.

I believe that listening to multiple stories we are able to increase the dignity of others.



How to deal with other’s sadness?


Too many times we jump to solving the problem when the other person just needs to vent. Sometimes we inadvertently invalidate the feelings of others because we are too busy trying to find solutions instead of giving them comfort.  This picture is a cute and helpful reminder for how we should approach situations like this. This is respecting the dignity of others.