Fred Rogers once recalled an instruction from his mother to “look for the helpers” in times of crisis and tragedy. It made a significant impression on him, and for good reason. “If you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope,” he explained.
Our nation, and much of the globe, finds itself in a time of distress not seen in modern history going back to at least the Second World War, but we can and should be encouraged by the response from friends, neighbors and even strangers across the country and right here in Arkansas who are helping those in need.
Designers and seamstresses were recruited by the Arkansas Arts and Fashion Forum to make masks for local hospitals and medical clinics. Firefighters in Little Rock organized an effort to feed truck drivers working tirelessly to maintain our supply chain. A Jonesboro retail-space landlord waived April rent in order to allow businesses to continue paying employees.
Kids in Fort Smith are making cards for senior citizens who might be isolated and lonely. Members of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra created a “Bedtime with Bach” nightly series to play comforting lullabies as we all cope with self-quarantining. A local restaurant in Searcy, forced to close its own doors, offered the stock of fresh groceries it had on hand to other small business owners who might be struggling as well.
Those are a just a few specific acts of kindness and generosity we’ve seen as this pandemic began to take its toll.
There are many others, large and small, happening each day across the state. Neighbors are pitching in to help the elderly couple down the street get the groceries and medications they need. Families are brightening the days of those who might be taking a walk outside by coloring chalk drawings in their driveways and on sidewalks. Teachers, who so missed seeing their students cheerful faces, have organized “car parades” in local neighborhoods to show their pupils they haven’t forgotten about them. Volunteers are working tirelessly to make sure individuals and families in need have meals through feeding programs and foodbank donations. Time after time, Arkansans are stepping up to the plate instead of waiting around for someone else to do it.
And all those examples don’t even include perhaps the most visible helpers of all in the midst of this crisis, our medical providers. They – and the administration and support staff around them – are providing the most vital service of all. Caring for COVID-19 patients and others in need of health care services at a time when resources are tight, shifts are long and the risk is high makes them the true definition of the word ‘hero.’
Mr. Rogers’ career was defined by his ability to connect with his audience and teach basic lessons about humanity and how we all have a part to play in it. His mother’s advice about finding the helpers is certainly something we should take to heart at this time. I know the admonition I received from my former coach Frank Broyles to “be a giver” has certainly shaped the way I view and live life.
So, the next time you’re watching or reading the news and things seem bleak, pause and take a second to find the helpers. You might even ask yourself how you can be a helper in that moment. Together we’ll support each other, spread hope and encouragement, and eventually get through this difficult time. The helpers will still be there, and their ranks will keep growing.