“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.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.”—Fred Rogers
This original quote by Fred Rogers in the 80s was intended to be used by parents as a means of comforting children in times of tragedy. If we were ever to be there, ever to find ourselves in a time of uncertainty and possible tragedy, the time is now. Certainly children and adults alike are finding comfort in looking for the helpers, and indeed being ones, themselves.
A constant concern to me in the coming days is the availability of helpers: the availability of the very ones my dear parents and mother-in-law consider to be their helpers. Or not.
Will homecare still be offered?
Will there be community medical services provided, and if so, how extensively?
Will there be enough hospital beds?
These are questions for which we just don’t have answers for, yet.
But even more concerning is just the idea of “helping” and what all that entails. For we are sometimes misguided in our own beliefs about helping, and helping effectively.
Helping is not what it used to be.
Indeed, everything we have ever known about being a helper is now being challenged.
It used to be that helping meant “lending a hand” or “providing one a shoulder to lean on”. A physical rock in a time of storm.
That is currently not helping, in the social sense of the word, as we must adhere to the requests being asked of us, via the CDC, to distance ourselves and indeed, even physically isolate ourselves from others.
Perhaps it has even conventionally been considered “helpful” to offer advice to others on what they “should” or “should not do”, but again, is this really helpful, when advice is often based on hearsay and third-hand information?
And one might think they are helping, when they are truly not.
To give an example of this, from my own experience, I have wanted to be with my own parents, who are vulnerable in this new era of infectious disease, to help; but to be with them could compromise their own health and safety. How could I ever deem this as helpful? At best, it might be compromising their safety. At worst, I could be culpable.
Truly, at the present time, being a helper is an ever-evolving idea, for which we have no precedent.
From what I am reading, I am trying to make sense of how to be a helper, as this is my desire. It would be all our desire, really. Personally, it has been my identity as a mother, teacher, and counsellor, to be a helper: so of course, I want to be one.
I want to be a helper.
So, how can I help?
A few ways.
I can keep abreast of the daily news briefings and inform my own family of what is happening. My job as a mom is to take it in, filter it and offer it in a palatable way to my children. So as not to scare them, but to inform them.
I can model good health practices, which those around me, will observe. And by those around me, of course, I do mean my family. Washing hands, avoiding touching my eyes, nose and mouth. Using hand sanitizer when good, old soap and water are unavailable. Stuff our own mothers taught us, to be honest. 🙂
But more than this, I can also model good mental health practices as well. I am writing largely because I need this writing opportunity to keep my own, overactive mind, busy. This blog article is for me. I also need daily walks in the beautiful outdoors. I need books. I need games. I need some good chats via phone and Facetime. And I need laughter. If I am modeling this for others, they will follow suit.
I can also help by setting an example for my own family of discipline to the requests of my provincial and national leadership to socially distance myself. Honestly, this has been the hardest. I am finding it super, super hard not physically seeing people. Not getting hugs from my kiddos at school. Not making trips to Charlottetown to see my family. Not having the freedom to “come and go”.
This has been a challenge.
But if I make a practice of this and model it for my own family, it becomes a discipline. It becomes a value. And I show to others its importance in my own life and importance to the life of others.
Being a helper is changing. It’s evolving in its definition. It is not the same as it was in Fred Rogers time: it is more, and it is also less.
It is about the micro actions we take that affect the whole.
Being a helper sometimes means choosing not to be one, at least visibly.
But rather, taking on the role, quietly, behind the scenes.
Where it really counts.
We can do this.
We can be this kind of helper.