My Saturday has been a busy one. This morning, I ran across a story about a film critics association's list of the 100 greatest movies of all time. Once I saw that "Schindler's List" was down the list at #74, I failed to take the rest of the list seriously. How could I? I imagined having a one-sided conversation with whoever contributed to that list, whoever decided to rank the Schindler movie so low. Back when it was released, nearly every movie journalist said it was one of the finest films they had ever seen. It's regularly in the top 5 of lists like this one. There's a reason for that.
But I digress; let's get back to my day: after I read a few things, including that piece about the 100 movies, I went outside and did some yardwork, including pulling some weeds and some poorly-located rosebushes. Once I had done all the physical labor I needed to do, I showered, ate supper, and capped the evening by watching "Won't You Be My Neighbor", the documentary about Fred Rogers and his show, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
Toward the latter part of the Mr. Rogers doc, with thoughts of "Schindler's List" still in the back of my mind, I began to remember how inspired I was by the life of Oskar Schindler, and it was easier than you might think for me to draw a connection between Schindler and Fred Rogers. Till now, I had never realized that they were cut from the same cloth. Both saw a large group of people who needed to be rescued--Jews in Europe from blatant attacks, prison camps, torture, and murder; and modern American children, from more subtle, but still-devastating societal damage with long-term consequences. Both of these men saw a way to make it better. Both faced opposition. Both had plenty of resolve, dug in, and stood their ground.
You know what else was immovable that day? The rosebushes I removed while doing my yardwork. Those things did not want to come out. My shovel and I met significant resistance. I could have simply cut the bushes at a very low place around ground level, but in time, they would have come back.
Cutting the bushes down would have done some good, but pulling them out by the root was better. It wasn't easy, but I think I got the roots completely out. I guess time will tell.
Any parent who is having his kids help pull weeds has to teach a similar lesson. It's important to pull weeds out by the root. If you miss the root, you didn't pull the weed.
"They should bandage the wounds my people have suffered, but they treat their wounds like small scratches. They say, 'It's all right, everything is all right.' But it is not all right!" Jeremiah 6:14
Oskar Schindler was a war profiteer whose motive went from greed to something else when he saw that his party, the Nazi party, was engaging in the most evil and horrific activity of the 20th Century. He also knew that he could save a few by smuggling them out of the country, or he could save many by digging deeper, finding out what makes Colonel Goethe tick, in order to save the lives of nearly 1000 Jews by declaring them essential employees, and then undermining the German war effort by producing faulty munitions.
Two decades later, Fred Rogers saw that many parents were relying on TV to keep their kids quiet, and he also was aware that TV content, including kids' shows, was becoming increasingly dark. He went against the trends, to the point of purposely keeping his show's pace slow at the beginning of the MTV age, despite being told that it would be impossible to keep the kids' attention. Rogers also tackled tough subjects like divorce and grief and the RFK assassination head-on. In his arguably boldest moment, he went up against Senator John Pastore, an outspoken opponent of public broadcasting, and won him over, not by shaking his fist and regarding Pastore as an adversary, but by simply explaining why shows like his were more important than ever.
What's most compelling as we examine the lives of both Schindler and Rogers is that they didn't simply address issues at the surface level. They saw a problem, identified the symptoms, worked backward to find the underlying cause, and then addressed that. They pulled the weeds up by the roots, knowing they were taking the more difficult, but necessary route to do what needed to be done.
Paul, writing to Timothy, observed that many people, in an effort to stay at a superficial level to resolve a problem, were"always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2 Timothy 3:7)
Real heroes like Schindler and Rogers were willing to do the hard thing. This should inspire all of us to not take the easy way out, but to dig deep.