Last week was a bad one for a lot of people. There are many grieving lost loved ones and a community is grappling with the realities of the tragedy of violence. Sadly, this isn’t new, although each heartbreaking incident leaves fresh, gaping wounds. It’s enough to leave even the most faithfully optimistic person shaking their fists to the Heavens asking ‘WHY?!’
This was where many of us, glass-always-half-full peeps found ourselves during the past few days. How could such a horrendously evil thing happen? How do we even latch onto hope in the future now?
Lots of questions…pretty much impossible to answer. But there is one thing I am still sure of:
There is still so much good in this world.
Fred Rogers, quite possibly the most underrated superhero of the 20th Century said, “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.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
I’d like to add to this, ‘If you can’t find a Helper, become one.’
I have a friend who’s done just that…
Like millions of others do everyday, I hopped onto Facebook recently. On that morning, the first post I read left me breathless. My friend, one both my husband and I have loved since our youth, made a brief, heartbreaking statement about the hopelessness plaguing his heart. I stopped for a moment and thought, “I’m not sure how I feel about being in a world where Garrett feels hopeless enough to actually post it.” Whether he feels this despair often or not, outwardly saying so for the world to see means it must be bad.
Compassionate, kind and ever optimistic, Garrett touches people with his wisdom and diplomacy. Whether he agrees with a person or not, he always seems to find a way to make those around him feel validated. It’s a gift really, coming from being good to the soul.
In this particular instance, recent racial tensions have brought the worst out in some. Words that should never even be thought are being carelessly, or even worse, intentionally uttered. There are people who hide behind their keyboards making vicious statements that only serve to divide our country and inflame emotions. A few take these statements as validation for acting out in dangerous, evil ways.
Garrett’s heartbreaking post made me stop and think about how these events are affecting loved ones. It helped me see that even if those most directly affected by these issues aren’t choosing to publicly lament over them, it doesn’t mean what’s happening isn’t absolutely excruciating.
Perhaps the most tragic thing about many of these nightmarish events is that they are the result of hate and detachment to the needs of other human beings.
As I reported what happened in Las Vegas to my children, I had a realization: The most traumatic event I recall from my childhood was caused by equipment malfunction. That particular day, millions of us, school children of all ages, had our eyes transfixed upon the live broadcast of the very first teacher, Christie McAuliffe, being launched into space. A teacher. And now an astronaut. Certainly, THIS meant anything was possible.
I remember the anticipation. It was a bright, clear day as the shuttle shot through the sky. And then, before we could understand what was happening, the clean line of exhaust trailing the ship suddenly broke off into two, one splattering it’s atmospheric canvas with splotches of gray smoke. It was only when we heard the desperate cries of onlookers, did we know something was terribly wrong.
I’ve never thought about it until now, but the thousands of teachers who quietly wept within themselves as they tried to navigate their classes through the reality of what happened, were helpers. Many of their students were witnessing mortality and death for the very first time. How many of them were young enough that they hadn’t even had the conversation before?
I’m not suggesting our generation didn’t have it’s share of human inflicted trauma. Good grief, living in Pennsylvania as a child, one day I was home sick from school. The local news came on at lunch time and I watched it with my mother. A disgraced politician was holding a press conference in a court house. He calmly reached into a manila envelope, pulled out a gun, put it to his face and pulled the trigger. My quick thinking mother hopped up and changed the channel before the images could be burned into my brain. My mother was my helper that day, as mothers often are.
Whether caused by man, machinery malfunction or natural disaster, helpers can always be found..and not just for children.
Which brings me back to Garrett.
In spite of the hurt he has been feeling, the hopelessness and despair, he’s actively choosing to be a helper.
Right now, our mutual friend from high school is going through aggressive cancer treatment. Garrett has organized a fundraiser for this weekend in an effort to buffer the family from the financial stress catastrophic illness comes with. But that’s not all.
Hurricanes Irma and Maria have left Puerto Rico devastated, to say the least. His response has been to mobilize his co-workers to provide much needed relief to those pleading for help.
In a world riddled with anger and division, Garrett has chosen to be a helper.
Cynics of the world may choose to mock the simplicity of such terms. But the reality is there is a childlike ability within each of us to recognize the benevolence of a person who chooses to lift others. Yes, even the most hard-nosed skeptics can’t deny the hidden superpowers of the Fred Rogers of today. (If you don’t have time to watch the entire thing, watch him conquer the world at around the 6:30 mark) And the most miraculous thing about this is, with a little effort, each one of us can possess such abilities.
All of this leads me to ask myself, ‘How am I choosing to be a helper?’
I suspect this is something I should be asking everyday…especially on the bad ones. I’m also feeling particularly grateful for the other helpers who’ve brought joy and relief to my soul when I’ve needed it the most. It’s changed my perspective at a time when the heaviness of tragedy is hovering over our nation like a gigantic storm cloud.
To the reader who’s found this post. I encourage you to do the same.
And in honor of two other helpers in particular, both of whom, passed from this life last week, I include two of their offerings that have brought me joy and light.
For those within the religious community, particularly those who identify as LDS, here is my favorite address by Robert Hales.
And since suggesting this as Tom Petty’s best song would spark a great debate I’m not prepared to have, I’ll just say it’s my favorite…whydontcha turn it up?
While I’d never had the pleasure of meeting Tom Petty, I have met Robert D. Hales and was lifted up by our brief encounter.
Helpers have the power to move mountains. In moments of fear, heartbreak and tragedy, if you can’t find anyone doing the heavy lifting, start pushing.