Sacred Exchanges

Sacred Exchanges

Tuck had recently discovered Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Spellbound, he stood four feet from the TV, watching the friendly man zip up his sweater and tie his sneakers.

sacred wordsMy little brother glanced around the room, then back at the screen several times. Mr. Rogers had just finished his opening song.

Hi Neighbor!”

“Something wrong, Tucky?” I asked.

He cupped his mouth. “Who is he talking to?” he blurted out in a hushed voice.

I smiled. Tuck needed a fatherly person around. I played along.

You, of course.” I said. “He wants to be your neighbor.”

With big eyes, Tuck faced the TV again.

I’m glad we’re together again,” said Mr. Rogers, as if he’d been listening to our conversation.

Tucks lips parted. “He lives on our street?”

“No, he lives in the TV, right here in our living room.” I struggled not to laugh.

Tuck cautiously made eye contact with Mr. Rogers. He darted over to whisper in my ear. “How’d he get in there?”

That would be like trying to explain Santa coming down the chimney. “I don’t really know, but you should answer someone when they speak to you,” I said. “It’s the polite thing to do.”

Would you like to be my neighbor?” Mr. Rogers asked, with perfect timing.

Tuck bobbed his head immediately, and from that time on, he had a TV daddy. He never wanted to miss a single show—and somehow that comforted me.

– – –

sacred storiesThis scene is an excerpt from my novel Bird, Horse, and Muffin—a story about finding God in the midst of loss.

Some of you might remember Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, a simple show with a kind host who taught young children values. A lot of programming for children today is over-stimulating, high-intensity action with mouthy characters, and sometimes sexual innuendoes for the parents.


Fred Rogers had a different goal in mind. He wanted to reach a child’s heart and affirm his or her inherent worth, place, and purpose in life.

sacred blessing“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing,” Rogers said. “That when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.”[i]

I believe this TV daddy affected many children in their living rooms.

sacred lifeAll children need to feel sacred. All grownups do too. And like Rogers, we can impart this to each other.

Mike Mason’s book, Practicing the Presence of People, has taught me more about this sacred exchange than any other book. He puts into words what loving others looks like. Mason’s personal story in the Prologue (read here) pulled me in hook, line, and sinker. I have taken copious notes and camped out in this treasured book for years.

If we participate with God in loving others, amazing things can happen. Mason says,

sacred self“The way you look at people changes the way they look. It may be that no one else has ever bothered to look at the person before you in a way that changes anything. You could be the first. You might be the first one to pay this person the attention he or she deserves. You might be the first to see her possibilities and not her limitations. You might be the first to offer a look that says, ‘I give you permission to be completely yourself. This is all I want from you. Right now you are free to think, say, or do anything you like. I will not judge, confine, predict, or control you.’”[ii]

For me, this is much easier to do with children. The challenge is to appreciate the sacredness in adults or more specifically—That Difficult Person.

Mason responds to this by suggesting “an experiment.”

sacred oldsacred young“You see this large, puffy adult face before you? Let your mind drift back through the years until this face grows small again, pixie-ish, soft, bright, and glowing. Get back to this person’s antediluvian world, before the great flood that swamped all their best feelings and dreams and left them wounded so deeply they have never recovered. See the spunk, the heroism, the natural joy, the pure, wild life that once lived in this person’s little child and that is still there if only someone would come and call it forth like Lazarus from the tomb.”[iii]

sacred participation Sacred exchanges are shining moments…

“In the external scheme of things, shining moments are as brief as the twinkling of an eye, yet such twinklings are what eternity is made of — moments when we human beings can say “I love you,” “I’m proud of you,” “I forgive you,” “I’m grateful for you.” That’s what eternity is made of: invisible imperishable good stuff.”[iv] –Fred Rogers




[ii] Practicing the Presence of People, by Mike Mason, page 175

[iii] Ibid.



  1. Yes. Yes. Yes. The world needs more Mr. Rogerses. You consistently bring that insight to your family and friends, Mrs. Hill. And I and my family cherish knowing you. Thank you for your quiet spirit and these gentle reminders.

    • Thanks Mick! I’m not really “writing” in this piece as much as quoting people who have touched my life. I think Mike Mason is an exceptional author and mostly known for The Mystery of Marriage, but his book on Practicing the Presence of People is amazing. I pondered this thought for a long time–“The way you look at people changes the way they look.” Sending hugs to you and yours…. Susan