In the wake of the Boston Marathon explosions, Facebook and the news have been filled with stories and reactions, as I am sure you are aware. In the face of such senseless violence, it’s hard to know how to react ourselves, much less what to say to our children.
I was heartened to read a post quoting Mr. Rogers — then to hear the same observations, in his familiar voice, on NPR. Always thoughtful and reassuring, Mr. Rogers offered the following advice: “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 helping.’”
What struck me right from the beginning as I watched the news clips last Monday evening, and the message I have heard again and again, was that so many people ran toward the explosions as soon as they heard them.
It would make perfect sense to run away, and there was no shame in doing so. To choose to put aside one’s own safety and think first of helping others reflects a special courage and selflessness that, more than anything, provides hope and healing action.
In a very real sense, they are acts of anti-terrorism, as were the countless ways in which Bostonians opened their homes and hearts to stranded visitors.
My paternal grandmother was a tiny woman who wielded surprising power and a general sense of entitlement that was a bit baffling, given her very humble beginnings. She could, in fact, be a pain! There was no one better in an emergency, however.
Grandma was the quintessential helper on such occasions. She never panicked; she responded with calm authority and a generosity of spirit that allayed fears and put an immediate stop to further damage.
We all have opportunities to be helpers. Sometimes the need for assistance is obvious; sometimes it’s much more subtle. It is way too easy for all of us to be absorbed in our own thoughts and “troubles.”
The question is: When there is an explosion near by, whether literal or figurative, do we run away or figure out what we can do to help?
Ruth Glass is headmaster at Lake Tahoe School. She can be reached for comment through her blog at www.laketahoeschool.org.