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While we were watching the news play out over the course of the weekend and trying to make sense of it all, I posted something on Facebook that several friends seemed to find helpful.
Here’s the original post:
I like to think that, if Mr. Rogers had an extra minute or so to address those of us who grew up watching him and are somewhat older children than we used to be, he might add something his message about always looking for the helpers. Something very kind that gently suggests that we try to be helpers in the sort of situations that make us sad whenever we can. And that not everyone needs to help in the same way, because there are all kinds of different ways to do that.
I like to think that, someday, we’ll get to the point that we don’t need Mr. Rogers to remind us of these things. That so many good people are already actively helping so much that fewer bad things ever happen in the first place. That when something bad does happen, we don’t even have to really look for the helpers because they’re the first thing we see.
I like to think a lot of things.
After a little reflection I was able to put more of my feelings into words.
As I was processing the news over the weekend and waiting for friends who live in the area to check in, my mind kept going back to my childhood. Mister Rogers, everything I learned in kindergarten, a world where I could imagine nothing more horrifying than missing an episode of He-Man or Voltron after school. In hindsight I can’t really pinpoint a moment when my awareness expanded to include the real unpleasantness in the world, so I’m sure that it was more of a process of gradually awakening than a switch being flipped. I thought about all of the kids in our lives, ages ranging from 2 to 5, and for a moment I was selfishly grateful that they’re not yet at an age where I’ve got to explain things like this to them. I know that those days are numbered and I don’t doubt that it will happen sooner than I’d like, so on that level it was a small wakeup call that I should probably prepare myself because that first unpleasant “why?” conversation will be here before I know it. That thought was immediately followed by a wakeup call that was broader and arguably more important that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind since, and that’s what made me think of Mister Rogers and that specific message.
In the middle of feeling pain for people I’ve never met, worrying for those I know who are close to the event, and the fact that these are current events in 2017, I’m thinking a lot of what the helpers look like in this situation. There’s a clear need for all kinds of people to pitch in after bad things happen, but wouldn’t it be better if we could invest our time and energy up front? I can certainly do a better job of modeling the behavior I want the kids to emulate if nothing else. I can try to be less grumpy, kinder in general. I can find organizations locally and across the country or the world and give time and money when I can afford enough of either that will improve the world to whatever degree in some small way. I keep thinking of that horribly overused cliche “be the change you want to see” and believing that it can’t hurt to try to be a better version of myself, to help the kids grow into responsible, kind adults in whatever way I can as long as I’m lucky enough to be a part of their lives, to find tangible ways to affect change at whatever level I can.
It’s going to take a while to process a lot of the thoughts and concerns that the last 72 hours or so have brought to the front of my mind, but I know that I haven’t been comfortable with the status quo for a while and that I want the world that our children inherit to look better in as many ways as we can make it. I’d like to help.