Really Helping


It seems so stupid to even write about this thing. To add my voice to the cacophony of noise, to say the things we all feel. How sad it is, this tragedy, how terrible, how sick we all feel when we are faced with such an explosion of suffering.

I’m seeing a lot of this quote by my beloved childhood icon, the gentle Fred Rogers:

“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.”

What a sweet and true thought. There are always helpers, aren’t there? I can really see now that almost everyone is trying to be a helper of some sort. Those can’t stop watching the news, although they are raw and cried-out. Those who rally around gun control petitions. Those who need to talk about the story with others, to discuss minute details, to try to understand. Those who don’t want to hear about it, talk about it, or see it anymore.

Although these reactions look different on the surface, each of them is an expression of the compassion and love in our human hearts. We all want to end suffering. Some of us (right, most of us) are a little confused about how to get there, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying to help in some way.

If you’d like to really help in a way that has an immediate effect, there’s something quite simple you can do, starting right now. I’m not talking about donations to victims’ families, or anything like that- although that certainly may have merit.

The answer is much closer to home. It’s very real, and it’s very important.

Here it is: Let your grief soften you. Turn off the news and go offer some kindness to the world- let it fly from your heart with friendly and curious wings to multiply and pollinate. Give some love away. Smile at a stranger. Call an old friend. Go for a drive and let someone cut in front of you in traffic just because you can. Smile at them. 

Avoid the temptation to harden your heart, to hate or despise, to shut yourself down in the face of fear, violence, and others’ confused hatred.

Believe, or if it seems far-fetched, perhaps just imagine, that the compassion and love you are giving may prevent a future violence. This is an act of courage- in the face of grief and sorrow, countering violence with kindness. It is the most caring thing you can do, a direct action of love.

The more you open your heart, the easier it is to see the other helpers. Their idea of help may be different from yours- that’s okay. Soften your edges toward them, because you understand their grief and suffering. Give them the space to soften and open as well.

Soundtrack for today’s post: “Hands” by Jewel. 

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken.

Photo credit: WolfS♡ul / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

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