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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

"Look for the Helpers"

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.”

Mr. Rogers (source: Wikipedia)

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.

(Source: Pixabay)

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

(Source: Pixabay)

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.”

27 Responses

  1. Sr. Melannie,

    What a beautiful reflection on helpers! That Mr. Rogers was so smart. I notice all the beautiful helpers in our parish who keep things running behind the scenes: they set up for coffee hour and bake goodies, they count the money from the collection, they clean the church, they pass out the bulletins as folks leave, they greet folks as they enter the church, and they leave candy in the dish just to welcome visitors.

    God bless you in your travels.


  2. Dear Sister Melannie,

    I agree with Kathleen — what a beautiful reflection of helpers. Good old Fred Rogers! A true media saint! In Syria, there are these people called the “white helmets.” They go into buildings just bombed to rescue those buried amid beams and cement. 60 Minutes did a segment on them. These helpers display astonishing courage, risking their own lives to save others, never knowing when the next bomb will drop. Pray for Syria!

    Keep writing….


  3. What an inspirational, positive reading to begin my day! Thank you for being a helper, too!

  4. Thank you for the advice about looking for the helpers in the stories in the news. I may then be able to resume watching television news and reading newspapers.

  5. Sr. Melanie,
    After my knee replacement and I went home, I had so many helpers, for rides, laundry, shopping, etc. Your message touched me deeply.
    Sr. Odelia

  6. Thank you for “helping” your readers see the positive in the daily news stories which are upsetting.
    Sr. Melannie–Best wishes and prayers for a wonderful retreat in such a beautiful part of our country!

  7. Thank you. Yesterday our priest shared a story about a nun who influenced him deeply during his years at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit. She taught him to make a point of looking around you when you get out of your car to “run into” a store for something. Do you see someone who needs help? If so, ask how you might help them. It might also be casting a prayer toward that person. Never just “run in.” Seems like a good rule to follow. (And yes, challenging, because often I know I’m a bit afraid to get involved.)

  8. Thanks, sister Melannie, again.

    I always tried to teach my kids when they were young to be helpful. They’ve mostly carried that with them through adulthood. My son especially has a talent with computers, and was asked recently to help our elderly uncle with a problem he was having. He did it, somewhat hesitantly at first, but he is very kind, and patiently explained what needed to be done.

    Also love the song. One of my daughters just got married last weekend, and they included this song in their wedding. 🙂

  9. Sister Melanie,
    I am always amazed at how your work touches me just when I need it most. My husband and I were discussing the state of the world this morning and how frustrated we are that we feel so powerless and then…up you popped with all kinds of encouraging ideas and that beautiful music. You are our Lord’s helper for sure! Thank you.

  10. Dear Melannie,
    What a beautiful, positive way of looking at a tragic situation. I never thought of doing that!
    I do remember though, after hurricane Sandy, driving around Staten Island where I live , to offer clothing where needed. I was so impressed by all the people helping each other…cooking food on the streets….and just holding and comforting each other. One woman approached our car and asked us to stay and pray with her.
    Thanks for theses inspiring words which will make me more aware of those who help and be among the helpers. I love that song also.
    Praying for your next retreats. Josita

  11. Sister Melanie,
    You are a helper of the soul. So many times your messages cut through the sadness in the world and bring light and hope.
    I pray that your time in California will be fruitful for all,

  12. Love this song! Makes me smile every time they sing it at Mass 🙂
    Thank you for your encouraging words

  13. Prayers for your retreat. There are so many helpers throughout my life I can’t name them all. One special angel always put fresh roses in the Ladies room at church. Such a sweet spirit.

  14. What a great way to look at life…look for the helpers. Lord let me be a helper where ever you put me in this life. It’s hard for me to let people help me but I now have eyes to see.. It is God in them helping the God in me. My husband is my greatest helper in life and I don’t thank him enough so thank you Jeff for all the ways you are my help mate!!!

  15. Thank you so much for every blog that you write. I don’t often take the time to write but in my heart I thank you every week. Your writing helps me keep life in perspective, look at things differently in a positive way, and help me connect with God better. You are a Mr. Rogers in your own way, touching more lives than you will ever know. I will pray for your up-coming retreat and all those that follow. Peace

  16. Thanks for such a wonderful article. I have grown to so enjoy your Monday morning message-so timely. I too have felt at a loss as I read the and hear the news – we are so blessed to have people like you today. Hoping your travels go well, Mary Jane

  17. Dear Sr Melannie,
    Once again you wrote the perfect message for me on just the day I needed it. Today was the big prep day for the Covington Sisters of Notre Dame 4th of July Festival. I thought back on the weeks and months and particularly today and tomorrow of all the helpers that do so much to make the festival possible. Thanks for the wonderful message of the helpers all around us! What a nice way to think of the people we encounter each and every day. I so look forward to your wise words. Thanks! Tina

  18. What a comforting way to help a child (of any age) deal with the scary news all around us in our world!

  19. Dear Sister Melannie,
    So much content today! When you first mentioned the helpers around us, my mind went immediately to the “White Hats” but then I began to think of the helpers we meet in our daily lives. Last Sunday I was privileged to be a volunteer at the National Convocation of Bishops in Orlando, FL. A lady from our parish, who was also volunteering, had difficulty breathing during the long walk across the sky bridge connecting the hotel and the convention center where a buffet dinner was being served. She sat at a table (and helped me by saving us a seat) while I stood in the serving line. As I got close to the food, I asked the gentleman standing behind me if he would please hold my place while I retrieved my friend. He not only was willing to do that, but asked to join us at our table. While we ate and shared our stories, he again helped us by bringing us our desert. I was both the helper and recipient of help and the result was friendship. What a blessing. I will not soon forget that Deacon from Joliet, IL.
    P. S. Love the “Servant Song” and use it often in liturgies.

  20. Hi Sr. Melannie

    Just love your Monday Posts (even though it’s Wednesday). This one in particular helps us all. The news just hits us to the core sometimes and it is good to know how to keep our balance. Offering many prayers for you and your retreatants. I am sure it will be beautiful and inspiring especially with the backdrop of God’s beautiful Pacific Ocean! Wish I was there!

    Nancy Frederico

  21. Wow! I’d just told my husband how ‘depressing’ the news is. Now you (and Mr. Rogers’ mom) have given me a new, positive slant. This is beautifully written. Thank you for your words, the message, the song. Please keep writing!

  22. Thank you, Sr Melanie, for always being that little ray of sunshine in our world. You give us hope and give us a better way to look at our world. May God bless you for being our helper.

  23. Once again, you hit the nail on the head! Thanks so much for posting this – I plan to make a copy and share it with my group of Christian ladies involved with fundraising for women’s education (P.E.O.)

  24. I love that quote of Mr. Rogers, and it was the first and most comforting thought I had on 9/11. The scene was so surreal and horrifying, yet in my shock, the Spirit helped me to notice the helpers; the men and women running towards this disaster to help and offer whatever comfort they could. It gave me hope when it was easy to feel hopeless. Thank you, Sister Melanie for your thoughts and prayers, and for this blog which gives me hope and direction.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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