| |

In Dark Times Look for the Helpers

Sometimes it takes effort to remember the goodness in humanity.

Waking up to the terrible news about the Las Vegas massacre was difficult. My husband delivered the news in the kitchen. Instinctively I emitted one of those gut-wrenching heaves with a hand to the mouth, Noooooo. Then a pause. Not again.

I know better to not watch news when there is still little information and so many unanswered questions. I know better not to equate October 1, our wedding anniversary, with a new national tragedy.

When you wait long enough, and intentionally not allow the dark and horrific images to sear into your brain, other scenes begin to emerge. A light behind the shadow.

  • Scores of people waiting in long lines to donate blood.
  • Hotels welcoming families of victims.
  • Donations pouring in.
  • A rally cry of Vegas Strong (as  uncomfortable as that slogan is as it trails from the winds of tragedy in my backyard, Boston.)

It’s all there, too. Kindness. Compassion. Resilience.

As with so many unfathomable events in the recent past, I find myself reflecting on the wisdom of a gentle and great man, Mr. Fred Rogers. This unassuming and benevolent teacher knew just what to say to the frightened child in all of us:

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.’

That does helps me. Because it is the truth about human nature. We are wired to care.

I ended the day watching TV. Something I rarely do. My husband had turned to a PBS station. (This was a bait and switch so I wouldn’t end the day with the blood bath. For me, this was comforting sign that 23 years of marriage has wrought a familiar cadence of care.) As it happened a documentary was premiering called Swim Team. It was about autistic teenage boys on a competitive team in New Jersey.  A tireless swim coach and his wife, parents of an autistic child, found a way to help these boys. The water. The routine. The acceptance. I sat down, riveted.

One boy on the team with Tourette’s syndrome had uncontrollable outbursts. Over the years he left a trail of holes in the walls of his family’s home. His mother pointed to the pock marks as another mother might show her child’s finger paintings on the fridge. A different kind of normal. According to the father medication had failed and swimming was the only thing that worked, even a little. When boy inevitably said the f-word at swim meets his teammates would matter-of-factly tell him to ‘pause and take ten breaths.’ The helpers.  You can see these kids participate in life, make friends, and find inspiration when so many barriers exist for them – and will exist as they become young adults. And the parents… exasperated yet patient, frustrated and kind, and finding solace among the other parents. I had a good cry. I welcomed the reminder about the resilience of the human spirit. After all, it’s in and around us all the time.

We just need to pay more attention to the goodness.  After all, what we focus on grows.

Pause. Pray. Participate.



Join my mailing list about my new book The Kindness Cure book, out in February 2018.



Photo Credit: 2017 Patrick Hendry https://unsplash.com/photos/jd0hS7Vhn_A

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply