With so much tragedy in our cities, it’s no wonder we sometimes feel despair. I woke today thinking about this and longed for Fred Rogers. Remember “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood”? (By the way, if you missed the documentary on him last year, I encourage you to seek it out). I thought about him because I was feeling like a confused child in need of his words!
I remembered that Fred Rogers was doing TV for children during some very violent and difficult times in our country: the assassination of leaders and the Vietnam War, just to name two. He was able to address these issues in his Neighborhood of Make-Believe in a way that named the frightening things children were hearing and seeing and explained them in a way to help them feel safe. His simple puppet dialogues were both gentle and profound and reflected his peace-loving perspective.
One of the experiences that influenced these stories came from his mother: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” I recalled that phrase today and it was very comforting – look for the helpers. At moments when it seems so dark, there are millions of helpers all over the world using their time, skills, words and deeds to heal, comfort and bring joy to others. Helpers in El Paso; helpers in Dayton; helpers everywhere.
You don’t have to look far to find them, there are plenty in your own communities. Some helpers are doing amazing things that make the news, but millions of other regular folks are also helping to heal the world in very simple ways. It’s really a matter of focus and awareness. My stepdaughter and granddaughters regularly bake cookies to take to the local firemen, just to say “Thank You”. A friend volunteers at a local kindergarten. If you go to the libraries in the afternoons, you will see older adults with teens and elementary-aged children working on homework, math, reading.
I remember as my mother aged and became less mobile, she made it a point to always engage the mail carriers and grocery clerks in conversation, to find out about their families and their lives. She was interested in how people were doing and was always willing to listen compassionately and without judgment.
If you are interested in some WOW stories, here are a few that I found on the internet in about 5 minutes:
- Check out the history of how Pam Koner’s Family-to-Family got started.
- Read how a 7-year old girl was inspired to start “Color Me A Rainbow” to distribute crayons and coloring books to hospitalized children all over the country.
- Check out the article “Kids Helping Kids: Inspiring Stories from Young People Who Are Giving Back.”
Helping can be large or small, it all makes a difference. The kindness of everyday life is enough to bring a smile to a person’s face and lift their day. Plus, reading about the things people are doing will raise your mood from despair to hope and help you be more aware of how you are interacting with others. It sure helps me when I fall down that dark rabbit-hole.
So, whatever your circumstances, when you feel yourself sinking, look for the helpers. Better yet, lend a hand, an ear, a smile to a stranger or family member – give a little bit of your heart and it will help you more than you can imagine.
If I can, I like to add a poem to the blog, either written by me or others. Here’s a beautiful poem by Richard Blanco, the 2013 Inaugural Poet of the U.S.
FOR ALL OF US
from every walk of life doing what we do,
making what we make, loving who we love,
giving what we give, thanking what we’re given,
praising what we believe, fighting what we fear,
wanting what we want, speaking how we speak,
and the telling of the stories we tell one another:
each of us shaping, evolving, reaching for the ideal
of this great experiment that is we the people,
that is our country with the word hope
as fresh on our tongues as it ever was.