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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Look for the Helpers"

The week of April 15 was one of incredible anguish, tragedy, and horror for thousands, particularly in the great city of Boston. In the aftermath of the horrendous act of terror in Massachusetts, the Facebook pages of PBS and BuzzFeed shared a particularly poignant photo worth sharing across the world wide web. The picture is of one of my childhood heroes, Mr. Fred Rogers, a comforting presence on PBS daytime programming for millions of children and their families for decades. In the photograph is a now widely distributed quote from the longtime TV presence: "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.'" Even if Boston is a place where, according to Augustana, "no one knows" your name, it doesn't matter to the people of that city if they do not know who you are: they'll be there helping you when you need it the most. The "helpers" that Mr. Rogers spoke of were seen throughout Boston in the last week; their spirit of altruism knew no bounds. As strangers rescued strangers, a community of helpers came together to heal the collective wounds of a magnificent city. 

That beautiful Bostonian benevolence was seen in a cowboy hat-wearing peace activist coming to the rescue of a victim, in local cops quickly rushing to the scene to provide help, in medics working arduously to ensure that that the injured will live, and in highly trained and constantly vigilant soldiers using their strength and experience to aid private citizens they fought to protect overseas.  While these stories are merely a small handful of examples, there were countless heartwarming displays of generosity, kindness, and magnanimity in Boston last week - certainly not enough to publish in a single blog post. The benevolence of Boston had the most desirable outcome too. The stories of heroism set an example and consequently became the impetus of an outpouring of selflessness across the world. That became evident in at least two instances early this week. Police in Boston received scores of food shipments from cities around the globe while the Chicago Tribune sent the Boston Globe words of gratitude and, more importantly from one's perspective, tons of pizza. Ultimately, elements of the media will obsessively focus on the backgrounds, biographies, and motivations of the suspects. While examining all of that is important, the acts of kindness and love seen in the benevolence of Boston should be cherished and celebrated. The capacity for good in the human spirit is a beautiful thing. In an ironic but admirable way, it often manifests itself in the aftermath of the worst circumstances imaginable. In fact, the pictures of rescuers that came out of Boston this week reminded me of the iconic images of firefighters and first responders risking their lives in New York on September 11, 2001 so that many others would live. Time and time again, these tragedies have seemingly proven Mr. Rogers and his mother correct every time. If there is any important lesson to be gleaned from the Boston attacks, it is indeed that: "look for the helpers; you will always find people who are helping."