Be The Helper

Many years ago, Fred Rogers (TV's longtime "Mister Rogers") offered up this story when asked about how to talk to children about tragedies, accidents, and terrible events that scare them: 
“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.’”
Rogers meant this bit of wisdom to be used when talking to preschoolers, but according to Ian Bogost in The Atlantic, it has become a "consolation meme for tragedy." 

I can attest to this because after every school mass shooting over the past many years, I have seen people post Mister Rogers' quote on their social media pages ad nauseam.  

And I get that we all want to do something when we see something horrific happen in the world, and we often don't know what to do.  So we repeat things like "Look for the helpers."  

By a stretch of the imagination, this isn't the wrong thing to do.  Here's where it can become problematic, however: 

What might be a comfort for children can easily work as a way for adults to maintain their distance from tragedy, injustice, and violence.  Instead of addressing the issues that contributed to the tragedy, we simply seek the "feel good" moments in the aftermath and then go on with our lives.  

According to Bogost, the message for adults shouldn't be "look for the helpers"; it should be "become one of the helpers."  

Sometimes, that also means becoming one of the helpers who work to prevent tragedies before they occur.

I saw an amazing poem today by John Roedel, and it spoke to me so much that it inspired me to write this particular devo.  Here it is: 
whenever I feel helpless
in this overwhelming world

I  become a helper

oh, oh, 
my love

on the days
when it feels like 
I  have no power

I  serve others 

you see, 
whenever I wash
the world's feet

my hands
stop shaking. 

There's so much that I love about that poem.  There is a wonderful shift of the poet expressing feelings of powerlessness that are then turned into the powerful act of serving others. 

There is a contrast between feeling hopeless and becoming a helper, which brings hope. 

And then there is the beautiful imagery of "washing the world's feet," which recalls Jesus doing the same for his disciples before their last supper.  

At that time, Jesus told his followers, "What I am about to do, do for one another." He then became a servant, humbling himself, doing something he would never have been expected to do.  

Jesus engaged in an act so powerful that it became one of the very symbols of being his follower.  

The last stanza of the above poem is so powerful that washing the world's feet makes the hands of the poet stop shaking from fear, dread, worry, and hopelessness.  There is no need for the poet to look for helpers because the poet has become one of them. 

If we want to change the world, we must be willing to do the same.  We need to become the helpers.  There is much to be done and so few to do it.  

And yet, the power to transform the world begins when we stop standing by, pick up our basin and towel, and kneel.  

May it be so.  And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all now and forever. Amen.  


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