Look For The Helpers

There always seems to be too much bad news. Too much focus on the negative. Most people agree that the news media sensationalizes the worst in humanity. Earlier this month, there was a lot of focus on Charlottesville, Virginia and the horrible demonstrations of hate and white supremacy. Since then, there have been more protests, counter protests, provocative headlines, and way too many examples of hate, bias, and intolerance.

Currently, stories and images of flooding, wreckage, loss, and death are plastered among headlines and social media posts. Hurricane Harvey hit Texas harder than anyone imaged and thousands of people have lost their homes, their belongings, and in some cases, their loved ones. It is difficult to take in all the destruction left in Harvey’s wake.

Under these circumstances, I sometimes find it difficult to focus. Life seems depressing and slightly overwhelming. I don’t feel motivated to write because other things seem so much more important. Luckily, I have a coping strategy.

In times like this, I turn to Fred Rogers for guidance. In my opinion, Fred Rogers, (or Mr. Rogers as many of us remember him), was the perfect model of a kind, caring, and thoughtful man. He was the most gentle of gentlemen. He was wise and compassionate. Through his television show and his books, he impacted the lives of many people like me who watched and admired him. Without a doubt, a simple lesson he shared with the public has helped me throughout my life.

Fred Rogers said, “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.’” He encouraged news stations and the media to do a better job showing the helpers instead of focusing solely on disasters and catastrophes. He sought a balance between good and bad news.

During the terrible protests in Charlottesville, I saw helpers. People from all walks of life joined together to send messages of harmony, love, and peace. For every rally based on hate, there has been a counter-rally of helpers that disavow hate, ignorance, and violence.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I see helpers. It is easy to find touching stories and powerful images of helpers. This is also your opportunity to be a helper. There are endless ways to support those who have been affected by the hurricane. Lending a hand and finding a way to help will make you feel better. Helping is the best way to cope with the news and the feeling of being overwhelmed.

So when you feel down or overwhelmed, remember Mr. Roger’s and his mother. When you see children struggling to make sense of what is happening around them, share this empowering message. Whenever you feel the need, you can listen to Mr. Roger’s soothing voice and his important reminder, “Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”


After Darkness, There Will Be Light

“Harmony will prevail. After darkness, there will be light. The light cannot come without the darkness. Better days are bound to come now.”  – Sook Nyul Choi

Terrible things happened in our country today. It’s all over the news and people way smarter than me have already written down their thoughts and reflections about today’s events. I am not a news reporter and I am not interested in the details about what happened. All I know is that a group of white people, who embrace hate and believe that their skin color makes them superior, caused terrible things to happen in Charlottesville, Virginia. Lives have been lost and many of us are shocked and angered that such a blatant demonstration of white supremacy, hate, and violence could happen in this country.

The events of the day have caused me to pause and reflect on those things that moved me from not seeing racism when I started college to being able to see and understand the role racism plays in our country. In addition to understanding racism, I also think it’s incredibly important to identify and be aware of white privilege. The two go hand and hand and are basically two sides of the same coin.

When I reflect on the things in my life that helped me better understand racism and white privilege, I think about (in no particular order):

  • Developing close personal friendships with people of color over a long period of time.
  • Reading Roots: The Sage of an American Family by Alex Haley.
  • Watching the entire 14-episode Eyes on the Prize series. It’s long but incredibly important. Every American should be required to watch this award-winning documentary.
  • Being in situations where I was the only white person in a group.
  • Re-learning American history with a balanced and multicultural lens, such as A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
  • Watching a Frontline documentary called A Class Divided that helps demonstrate the effect of prejudice and bias, especially on children.
  • Reading Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson.
  • Working to understand my own upbringing and the limited way I was taught to see the world.
  • Reading White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.
  • Learning from wise and open-minded teachers and mentors, both white and people of color, who were willing to guide my journey and share their experiences.

Some of these videos and books are older, but many have been revised and are still relevant today. If you are interested in increasing your knowledge and awareness about racism, each of these is a great starting point. I would humbly suggest devoting the time and energy to try all of them. You will have no regrets!

I am also interested and curious to hear your thoughts and experiences. What would you recommend reading, watching, or doing to help white people broaden their awareness of racism? What do you feel compelled to share after witnessing the hate and violence in Charlottesville?