I find myself spending too much time thinking about the world I will leave to my 13 year-old, Rachel. There seems to be a whole lot of bad news some days. Recently, the attacks in Belgium just seem to be latest senseless act of a growing set of desperate people who feel they are not being heard. The mayhem always has the violence porn industry in tow. I wonder if there is an antidote to the hopelessness, fear and impending doom Rachel sees every day.
Then I remember Fred.
Fred Rogers, that’s Mister Rogers to you and me, seemed to be the world’s ambassador to children. He delicately explained the world to us in all it’s wonder and all it’s chaos. He seemed to instinctively know what we needed. That sweater and those sneakers were our symbols of certainty, sanity and safety before we even knew what those words meant. He spoke our language in a steady voice which never stooped to condescension. I guess Mister Rogers learned well the story of Job in seminary because his patience seemed to be unlimited.
Do you remember how he told us we could think about a disaster?
He told us the story of his mom’s advice about how he could think about disaster and violence porn. She told him simply, “look for the helpers.” In our language, he told us faith and hope would be found in the “helpers.” He felt so strongly about his mom’s helper concept that he urged the violence porn industry not to edit those helpers from their porn.
Did you watch Mister Roger’s Neighborhood as a child?
I look for the helpers today. I find great solace in them today. I think Jesus would have been a helper. In spite of personal danger, these people run toward the fire. Many have no skills to bring to bear once they make it to the breach. They might be bricklayers, garbage men and window washers but, they try to help anyway. Knowing their only contribution might be human kindness, they are willing to give it. Their split-second decision is to love.
Do you know people like this?
In my recent spiritual spring cleaning, I have made a decision to look for the helpers. I have made a conscious decision to reduce the influence in my life of people who seem to take pleasure in violence porn. I want to replace those people with helpers as influences in my life. This is an endeavor for me and not a transformation. I have however found peace in the journey. It is not my nature to run toward the fires of this life but, there is peace there. I have to be honest here. It is not my nature to serve those I don’t feel worthy. I feel that there are people in my life who build fires in their’s every day. My nature is not to run toward those self-made fires.
Have you had your feet washed in a figurative or literal sense lately.
I think back to all those who washed my feet. There were times I did not deserve it. There were times I would not have washed my own feet. Helpers have been everywhere in my life. Those helpers came exactly when I needed them. Fortunately for me, they didn’t ask questions. Perhaps some of them once had the same done for them. Perhaps they washed out of gratitude. Perhaps they washed out of a longing for peace. Regardless, the affect on my life has been profound and lasting. I am grateful for the helpers, the foot-washers. They are the perfect antidote for the darkness which visits all of us. I pray that there are lots of helpers in Brussels. I pray that the children of Belgium get to see plenty of those helpers in action.
Lovely post, Dal. The sense of fear and hopelessness that’s so endemic in our society can, itself, be almost overwhelming at times, often more than the tragedies themselves. As a species, as a community of humans, we can overcome almost any tragedy, but if fear and hopelessness prevails we as a species will also fail.
Love is what can turn things around. The helpers demonstrate love through their actions. We need more stories about the helpers and fewer about the purveyors of hate, terror and violence (whatever their “cause” or “belief” or “motivation.”)
Thanks for sharing this! i had never heard that from Mr. Rogers, but I will be using it!