“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
You’ve probably seen this Mr. Rogers quote before. It comes up here and there, especially in times of national or global crisis. It shows up in a Facebook post after a tragic murder or some other senseless event that is difficult to understand. It comes when we are scrounging for hope, for faith in humanity. For faith in each other.
I thought about that line, Look for the helpers, as I read an email late last night about the passing of a very special man. The email was from his incredible wife, and I could feel the love and the heartbreak in her words.
He was a minister, a leader, a father, a grandfather and a friend. I met him and his amazing family during the most difficult time in my own family’s story – during the period surrounding the short life and death of our infant daughter, Tikva, almost 8 years ago.
We didn’t know them at first, but we knew their daughter who had been a fellow parent a few years before when my older child had started preschool with her children. She reached out to us, and with her, so did her parents.
They offered their love. They offered their help. They offered the support of their incredible community. They collected furniture from their community for our empty home, baby clothes for our still unborn child, linens for our beds and bathroom, pots and pans and silverware and dishes for our kitchen. With grace and unconditional generosity of spirit, they held us when we needed it most. They brought ease so that we could focus on our family.
They weren’t the only ones. Friends and family left meals daily in a cooler on our doorstep for the entire two months of our daughter’s life and for two months after that. Relatives came through for us in uncountable ways. The Jewish community opened their arms and gave us a place to land. The parents at our older daughter’s preschool instantly loved her and cared for her and brought her home with them after school so we could stay late at the hospital with Tikva.
And a vast community of parents who had also lost babies – some further along on their own journeys and some right where I was – held me as I grieved, for as long as it took. Tikva’s loss brought the gift of new friends to my life, friends I cannot imagine my life without.
I didn’t have to look for them or seek them out; they just showed up. I didn’t have to ask; they just knew. Because of them, I know how good people are. Because of them, I survived. Because of them, I knew I was held and never felt alone. Because of them, it is impossible to lose faith in humanity.