When I was very young--pre-kindergarten--Mr. Rogers was must-see TV. On our PBS station, he came on right after Sesame Street. Even as a child, though, I thought he was a bit odd. What was with the change of shoes? Who wears a sweater indoors? And the puppet prince with the plastic head? Kinda strange to be honest. However, there was one part of his show that I always looked forward to: Trolley.
Trolley was a literary device come to life on a TV show, alerting children like me to open up their imagination a bit more to make room for puppets and talking owls and princes. We were leaving one world for another. Even though I didn’t necessarily understand the world into which Trolley invited me, the idea of entering a make-believe world gave me butterflies in my stomach.
As an adult, I still discover those butterflies when I enter an unfamiliar world. In lesser ways, I experience it at the beginning of a movie, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Be it the opening Star Wars crawl, the muted trumpets of Harry Potter’s theme song, or the post-credits scene of a Marvel movie, a bit of adrenaline courses into my veins in those moments. In more meaningful moments, I also feel them when I’m about to step on stage or into a classroom to speak. I feel them when I’m sitting with someone who’s seeking advice. I have to push them back down inside me when I need to have a hard conversation with someone. Positive or negative, I experience a lot of anticipation when I’m joining someone else in their context.
The genius of Mr. Rogers is that he led children to feel these butterflies as we entered into his make-believe space, but not as an escapist mechanism. Trolley led us there to give us Good News that we could take back into our 5-year-old world. Trolley led us to a place where we watched parables that taught us how to be neighbors, learning to love both ourselves and others. At eleven:28, this is what we hope for. We want to take the caregivers who trust their wellbeing to us into a safe space where they can imagine caregiving at its best and then lead them back out into the Kingdom of God where so much is asked of them.
Look for the helpers, Mr. Rogers once said. We believe these helpers need a safe space to be vulnerable to the Good News so that they can return and help others grasp what it means to be a caregiver in a complex and divisive culture. Caregiving, administered by helpers exemplifying neighbor love, is both draining and perilous. Fearlessly, the caregiver asks, “Can I enter into the world where someone lives? Can I demonstrate neighbor love in that context?”
- Sanctuaries hungry for a weekly Word that won’t be bland compared to their daily diet of TV news.
- Faiths unsure whether to reject, affirm, or include their LGBTQ neighbors.
- Auditoriums confused by the silence/outspokenness of their church in matters of racism, injustice, and inequality.
- Social media platforms where conservatives condemn liberals and liberals belittle conservatives.
- Hospital rooms where despair and hope are moments apart.
- Schools where lonely students get lost in overfilled classrooms.
- Offices where power and control are the means to a business’ objective.
Into these and countless other spaces fraught with anticipation and trepidation of what may be next, caregivers enter with Good News.
Whether through small groups of transparent ministers, overseas travel to weary missionaries, holy ground over Skype, or group vulnerability on a church staff, eleven:28 seeks to bring vitality to all those serving in the Kingdom of God. We’re the Land of Make-Believe where we receive Trolleys full of those needing renewal, then send them back out with a message of Good News to neighbors.
- Pastors and ministers
- Para-church organizational leaders
- Employees and Managers
- Social Workers
All of these need moments where they can take the Trolley to a space that fills rather than drains them. They need parables and stories of hope that can be carried back to their homes, churches, and workplaces.
This is the work of eleven:28.