“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." – Fred Rodgers
Sometimes I think I can be too empathetic. I watch the news and my heart hurts. Looking at the people of Kathmandu, I cannot help despair for those poor people. Remembering that it was climbing season, I worry for those on the mountain or at the base camp. Last night I got online and learned of rioting in Baltimore. I think of the citizens, the officers, the people of the city. I worry.
At times it seems there is so much going wrong in this world, how can we ever get to a place that is good? Looking at Facebook, I can’t wade through the status updates to find a similar one to my own mind. What if police officers are mostly good, but there are some that aren’t? What if citizens who have been oppressed have a right to be angry, but this is too far? What if we cannot help all of these people in Nepal that are hurting and we instead ignore it. What if, what if, what if…
I think of Rodgers quote and I’m calmed, some. There are helpers. There are people out there giving. There are people out there fighting to make sure that others are given a fair shot. I just wonder if it is enough.
Ironically, I am teaching a Civil Rights unit in my class right now. Yesterday the students broke into groups and studied a specific topic from the Civil Rights movement. They researched in books I had gathered and online. Walking by one group I overheard a member reading off some facts from the iPad to her friends. They were discussing injustice and how people looked the other way in the 50s and 60s. I worry that we are doing the same now.
As I tucked in my own children last night, watched them drift off to sleep, I felt guilty. I am safe, I am blessed. Am I grateful enough? Do I do enough? How can I help?
Opening up Facebook this morning I see a lot of blame. Blame for the officers. Blame for the citizens. What if we stopped blaming and started finding common ground? What if we acknowledged that there is racism alive and well here? What if we began by realizing that poverty is a huge issue that we are continuing to ignore. What if we talked about the fact that there are folks in poverty who work really hard, do not use drugs, and need welfare, yet continue to live in poverty? What if we talked about how hard it is to get out of it?
On the flip side, what if we acknowledged there are a plethora of police officers who do their job every single day, go above and beyond, put their life on the line, and go to bed like it was no big deal, just a day at the “office”. What if we talked about the fact that cases across the country such as these are giving their job a bad reputation, but that they themselves did not earn that. What if we respected them for the brave work they do?
I don’t think this is an either or situation. One side is not right at the expense of the other. What I know is that my heart hurts. I worry. I am so sad for the people of Baltimore. I despair for the people of Nepal. And there is more. So much more. To the point I cannot even bear it. And so, I will look for the helpers. They are always there.