Remember the Helpers

Our Pittsburgh neighbor, Fred Rogers, shared that when he was a child and saw tragic or catastrophic events on the news, his mother reminded him to “look for the helpers.” She wanted him to know that people respond and run to help others in the face of tragic events. 

He shared this message with the generations of children who tuned into his Neighborhood. This message turned into a rallying cry after the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman High School, the Thai cave rescue, and the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre which happened in Mr. Roger’s real-life neighborhood right here in the Squirrel Hill part of Pittsburgh.

In an article in the Atlantic, Ian Bogost criticized the use of the phrase as being insufficient to remedy the pain for people and that what is useful for children is lacking for adults.  He accurately states that more must be done to help people recover from these tragedies and merely knowing helpers will be there to help, doesn’t really help.

To my mind, however, there are always more helpers around. A couple of years ago, I wrote about “second responders” who are those people who step up after the emergency to help us all recover. These include neighbors, friends, work colleagues and professional helpers.

Sitting at home, during the Pandemic, I often tuned into the evening news. The broadcast reports cover all the bad stuff in dramatic fashion followed by a 3-minute story of hope. After a few months, I decided that I wanted that pattern reversed with 25 minutes going to the stories of all the people who are helping to relieve the Pandemic and are working to save the world and then  just 5 minutes for all the bad news.

I knew, of course, that was never going to happen. Bad news sells.

I look for the good news during my day. I start off reading the Life and Work section of the Wall Street Journal where I can find out about new and interesting tech r catch a laugh from Jason Gay’s insightful viewpoint on sports. I might check out the Good News Network website where I can read stories and find inspiration of hope and success.

It is not that I ignore all the bad news. For one, it can’t be avoided and second, I know I need it to stay informed. It’s just that I need more than 5 minutes a day.

All of us are the helpers out there who Fred’s mom as describing doing our small (or perhaps large) work to bring more to the world. Our resilience builds by acting on what is important to us. We are not here to live to fight another day but to build a better place.

© Richard Citrin 2022

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