le plus loin le plus serré

le plus loin le plus serré
mourning art

in memoriam

"yet I tell you, from the sad knowledge of my older experience, that to every one of you a day will most likely come when sunshine, hope, presents and pleasure will be worth nothing to you in comparison with the unattainable gift of your mother's kiss." (Christina Rossetti, "Speaking Likenesses," 1873)

Monday, April 15, 2013

the helpers in Boston

Once again, terrible news of people being injured and killed for no apparent reason. As was the case just a few short months ago, when all those people were killed in Connecticut, I repeat what Mister Rogers has to tell us:
Look for the helpers.
This clip is from an (excellent) long interview done with Fred Rogers by the Archive for American Television. The quote about looking for the helpers has been doing the rounds online, but it doesn't include, usually, the final line in this excerpt, which is a line worth noting and repeating:
If you look for the helpers, you'll know that there's hope.
 I was thinking about this quote, because I think about this quote almost daily, and realized how multi-faceted it is, how helpful in so many ways. Looking for the helpers takes our gaze away from the blood and broken glass, away from the scary, anxious, confusing, nightmare we see on our screens (and our screens are everywhere, focused right on the blood and broken glass and crying people) - it directs us away from the horror onto the good. It shows in ways no statistics can that the good people who want to help us outnumber - by a LOT - the bad people who want to hurt us.
This photo (by John Tlumacki of the Boston Globe), which contains a bit of blood and broken glass, seems to me to be a perfect illustration of Looking for the Helpers as a way to see Hope.

 A lot of the photos from Boston today have featured brave, hardworking men and women in bright green vests: EMTs, doctors, nurses, police, other professional first responders. They are helpers, and they are so important.
But this photo - this one - shows two people helping a third. No one has a vest. No one is a professional helper - at least not that we can see. Neither of these people is on the clock. Possibly neither has any first-response training, or experience, or preparation.
What both people have is empathy and care and compassion and bravery. They're helping a third injured person. Maybe he's a friend, or parent, or family member. Maybe he's a total stranger. Who knows? It doesn't matter. What matter is these helpers, half an hour before this photo was taken, were just two random faces in a crowd.
The helpers are everywhere, all around us, ready to get to work and help at any moment. Anyone can be a helper. Everyone can be a helper. Lots of us already are, in big and small ways.
And there are so many more helpers than hurters. There always are; there always have been. Always. Even when it doesn't feel like there are, they are there. As Mister Rogers says, they might be just off-screen, or just at the edges. They aren't always the center of our attention - certainly not our newsmedia's attention - but they should be. There are thousands, probably millions of helpers in and around Boston today - and just one or two or a few bad guys.

Look to the helpers. Look for them. They are heroes, for sure. They are also us, you and me and everyone in the vast vast vast overwhelming majority of people who aren't bad guys. The people who got hurt? They're probably helpers too - maybe not today, but earlier, or maybe in years to come. Maybe even today.

*   *   *   *   *   *

The Fred Rogers Company - which is composed of some absolutely outstanding, compassionate, and smart people, many of whom worked with Mister Rogers on his program - has some advice for parents or other adults who work with kids on how to help children during tragedies. It's good advice. As I wrote before
Mister Rogers isn't going to lead you astray. He simply isn't. I have read hundreds of letters written to him, and dozens of responses from him and his staff of wonderful people who are very like him. The faith and trust people placed in him was not unfounded. The faith and trust and reassurance he gave them made a difference, in some cases a huge difference, to parents, grandparents, and children.

The link again to Fred Rogers Company's advice on speaking with kids about tragedy is here.

Mister Rogers is amazing, we know this, but his mother was also a very wise woman, and we should mention her, too, in our list of helpers. She helped little Fred Rogers become the great person he was; she is helping thousands, maybe millions, of people right now with her compassionate words of wisdom: Look for the helpers.

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