I was eager to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” not because I had watched “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood” as a kid (because I didn’t), but of my respect for Tom Hanks as an actor; a modern day Jimmy Stewart whose acting skill ranges from “Saving Private Ryan” to “Big,” from “You’ve Got Mail” to “Philadelphia” and “Forrest Gump.”

I was not disappointed.

But the movie wasn’t what I expected. It’s not really a cinematic bio-op of a quirky children’s television show host in Pittsburgh. It’s more about the impact and transformation that can happen when we choose to care for others, affirm them for who they are now, and inspire them to their better selves.

Folks in Houston, Texas, know the name Jim McIngvale, better known to locals as Mattress Mack, that eccentric guy in the Gallery Furniture TV commercials. But if that’s all he did I wouldn’t be writing about him now. And you wouldn’t care.

During Hurricane Harvey and recent Houston flooding, Mack’s showrooms became makeshift shelters in which hundreds of evacuees and dozens of National Guard troops could catch some much-needed rest. Recently, he arranged for Metro shuttle buses to bring some 10,000 Houstonians to his store parking lot for turkey with all the trimmings. And on and on and on.

High tech v. high touch

High touch isn’t just a pleasant aspiration in this digital age, it is crucial for Christian radio’s survival and success. What used to be a unique competitive advantage (that we play Christian music, by golly) is now nothing more than ubiquitous shelf space on an aisle of dozens of other sources over the air, online, and on-demand. Who would have guessed that a medium once known more for silly cat videos (YouTube) would become the format’s #1 competitor online?

Mattress Mack and Mr. Rogers are two examples of demonstrating ideals bigger than just hocking mattresses or doing a low budget TV show for kids. Each viewed their moment in the spotlight as an opportunity to inspire and help transform lives.

Mark Ramsey recently shared:

“As I watched the movie (which I strongly recommend) it occurred to me how much alike this children’s show and your radio station are, or at least how much alike they should be.

This is a fact still lost on too many stations in the Christian music format. Stations that go out of their way to preach and teach rather than helping listeners discover the values of Christ for themselves, with the station’s help. This makes the content MORE inclusive.

But here’s what wasn’t obvious during that daily dose of uplift: There was no label for God, no quotations from the Bible, no references to Jesus. Virtually none whatsoever. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood never described itself as a ‘Christian show,’ but at its heart it was MORE than a Christian ‘show’ – it propagated a Christian message.”

As we begin the journey of 2020 perhaps our radio stations will choose a more meaningful direction. Instead of instructing, perhaps we’ll aim to inspire.

“There is no ‘them,’ only ‘us’.”

Fred Rogers