Every day we are bombarded with bad news: bombs exploding at airports and concerts, refugees fleeing from war-torn countries, people flooded out of their homes, individuals overdosing on drugs. It’s enough to make you weep. It’s enough to make you depressed.
But then I saw something on the CBS news a couple of weeks ago about Mr. Rogers, the creator and star of the children’s program, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. He told the children something his mother had said to him when he was a child and was afraid when he saw bad things happening around him: “Look for the helpers.”
When you see the aftermath of a terrorist bombing, look for the helpers; that is, look for the people comforting a wounded girl in their arms. Look for bystanders and the police tending to the injured, the people carrying the injured to waiting ambulances, the ambulance drivers speeding the victims to the hospitals, and the doctors and nurses waiting at those hospitals to receive them.
Or when you see people flooded out of their homes, look for the people in boats going from house to house or the hovering helicopter lowering someone to rescue a man clinging to a tree. Look for the National Guard carrying babies and even dogs to safety or the Red Cross personnel providing food, blankets, and a warm dry place to sleep.
Look for the helpers. The helpers in Manchester far outnumbered that lone suicide bomber. They even outnumbered his “associates” in their midst. Good people far outnumber the perpetrators of evil. We must always remember that.
But we shouldn’t just look for the helpers. We should become one of the helpers. When tragedy strikes, be a helper: by donating food and/or clothing. By writing a check. By offering to help in any small or large way you are able.
And we don’t have to wait for bad news to occur to be a helper. We can be a helper in our everyday lives—at home, at work, at our parish, in our local neighborhood. For example, I watch my grandnieces and grandnephews play soccer, basketball, and baseball. And I marvel at their coaches—all volunteers, many of them Moms and Dads—busy Moms and Dads. And I admire those other helpers who work the concession stands and those small businesses who pay for the shirts the kid athletes wear.
In our parish, I marvel at those who serve as ushers, readers, Eucharistic ministers. I’m grateful to those who sing in the choir, clean the church, decorate the altar, launder the altar linens. All volunteers. All helpers.
This week, why not make a conscious effort to look for the helpers in your midst. The worker at the grocery store who shows you exactly where the canned mushrooms are on the shelf. The customers in the parking lot who return their carts to the “cart corral.” The driver who gives you a break in traffic. The people picking up litter along the side of the road. The spouse who takes out the garbage, cooks a favorite dish, does a small favor without being asked. The friend who always seems to know just what you need and when you need it.
And be a helper too. The fact that you’re reading a blog such as this is probably a good
indication that you are essentially a helping and caring person.
Jesus told a beautiful parable about being a helper: the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan was on his way to Jericho when he chanced upon some bad news. Very bad news: a man, a stranger, a Jew, lying on the side of the road. He had been beaten and robbed and was left half-dead. The Samaritan didn’t simply weep at the sight. He didn’t simply say, “How depressing!” No, he went into action. He became a helper. He used the few resources he had—some wine to disinfect the wounds and some pieces of cloth to bandage them. I wonder: did he rip his own clothing? Then he lifted the man up on his animal and took him to an inn. Then he reached into his wallet and paid the innkeeper to look after the man. And if he hadn’t done enough, he promised to stop by on his way back to check on the man and to give the innkeeper more money if necessary. Wow! What a helper he was.
When we encounter bad news, we can weep, yes. We can become depressed, yes. But then we must look for the helpers. And then we must become a helper. Isn’t this precisely what Jesus calls us to be?
Our song today is a favorite of mine called “The Servant Song.” It was written by Richard Gillard of New Zealand and is performed here by the Bukas Palad Ministry.
Who are some of the helpers you notice in your everyday life?
When are some of the times you have been a helper? How? Why?
Would you like to “be a helper” to the readers of this blog and share some of your thoughts with us?
PS: Please pray for my next retreat at Villa Maria Del Mar in Santa Cruz, CA from July 7 to July 14. There will be 42 retreatants gathered on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. Then I will drive up to San Francisco where I’m giving a presentation on Sunday, July 16 from 1:00 to 3:30 at the Presentation Convent on Turk Blvd. The talk is entitled “The Spirituality of Hope.”