“Look for the Helpers”

This morning, the day after the Boston Marathon bombing, I heard a television personality ask the question on every parent’s mind: “What do we tell the children?” I don’t know a better answer than these words from the wise and beloved Mr. Rogers“…”Look for the helpers.”  We saw them in the first shocking seconds of video–police and other first responders in their neon-green vests running toward the explosion victims; a race official running to help a runner knocked down by the blast’s shock wave; ordinary folks doing whatever they could to help the injured around them.

Inspiring and encouraging stories of “helpers” continue to emerge from Boston. A recently-returned soldier used his combat experience to move the people around him toward safety and help them stay calm. An emergency room doctor who’d come to support his marathon-running friend sprang into action helping the injured around him. Runners ran beyond the finish line to the nearest hospital to offer blood donations and other support. Emergency room personnel treated to-MISTER-ROGERS-HELPERS-QUOTE-570he 150+ injured with the skill and compassion they bring to work every single day. Leaders of many faith traditions offered resources and facilities to support the victims and their loved ones.

“Look for the helpers,” Mrs. Rogers told young Fred—and all of us. That’s Easter faith! It doesn’t deny the reality of evil. Bad things happen–to the good, the bad, and the average. Eight-year-old boys like Martin Richard run to congratulate their marathon-running fathers and a bomb blast snuffs out their lives. Friends come to watch friends run and a terror attack obliterates their legs. Bad things happen and the power of good (the power of God!) replies, “Death is strong, but Life is stronger. Life, not death, is the last Word!” I’ve just seen an interview with long-time Boston reporter Mike Barnicle (yes, that’s the correct spelling). He talked about the resilience of Bostonians. Many who witnessed the event, Barnicle said,  will retain more than the image of the bomb blast’s carnage and chaos. They will hold in their minds what he called “a freeze-frame of strangers helping strangers…” Don’t ignore the chaos and tragedy. It’s real. Do “Look for the helpers”. They’re equally real  signs of God’s presence and power.

Bill Richard, Martin’s father, may not be ready to hear that yet. He not only lost his eight-year-old son. Both his wife and daughter were also severely injured. This evening (Tuesday) he released a statement asking for patience, prayer, and privacy for himself and his family. I suspect that the helpers are already beginning to make themselves available. The most effective ones will be quietly present but willing to give him plenty of space, sensitively and unobtrusively helpful, and fiercely protective of the Richard family’s privacy. Those helpers may be friends, family, hopefully their faith community. They will be there when the family is able to recognize and receive their help.

Tragedies like Boston drive many to seek God more urgently. Numerous vigils and prayer services are being held or planned by various faiths. United Methodist Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar invited New England United Methodists to pray with him, “God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in times of trouble.” (Ps.46:1). The Rev. LaTrelle Miller Easterling, Superintendent of the UMC’s Metro Boston Hope District, reminded the people she serves that “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Sometimes when we “look for the helpers” we see—ourselves. Hundreds of folks have had that experience in the early aftermath of the Boston attack. It will happen often as the injured make the long journey toward wholeness. It will happen as the whole community mourns its losses and moves toward healing. Some of the best “helpers” are those who have suffered themselves. Most “support groups” simply share the wisdom of those who are at various stages of dealing with grief, addiction, weight loss, or some other issue. Those who found helpers when they looked, or perhaps when they thought they were beyond help, have healed enough to become helpers available to share someone else’s struggle. Your best credentials for being the “helper” I need are your own battle scars from a struggle like the one I’m going through right now.

Have I wandered long way from “What do we tell the children?” The link at the beginning of this post leads to some good wisdom about helping your children deal with tragedies like Boston and Newtown. You might even find yourself talking about how each of us can be a helper for others. We more mature children of God can reflect on the two-sided message of Mrs. Rogers’ wisdom for Freddie and all of us. 1) “Look for the helpers” because their presence is a sign of God’s presence with us in a scary time. Look to other people and look deep into the resources of your faith. 2) Expect to find yourself called to be that “helper” for someone within your reach. You’ll be the one in just the right place at just the right time with just the right help for the person who’s “looking for the helpers” with no real hope of finding them.

56 Responses to ““Look for the Helpers””

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