"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."
I’ve seen this quote floating around various social media the past few days. I love it. I love Mr. Rogers and the love and kindness that he advocated. This quote has been my inspiration for approaching the recent news with my own children. We didn’t give them much detail, at all. But they know the very basics and that many people are hurting. My almost-ten-year old did ask some questions that I tried my best to answer honestly. After answering a few of his more direct questions, ending with numbers of people involved, he sat very still and quiet. Then he simply said, “Same as letters in the alphabet.” It was such a child-like observation, and at the same time so overwhelming to me. Later that night in a conversation with other blogging friends we were discussing ways to honor the victims of Sandy Hook and I shared my son’s observation. From that we came up with The list we came up with is just a jumping off point. We each took a letter to start out with, and use in our own way. I chose W to start. The list says “write a letter to an official”. But honestly, I haven’t the stomach for anything political right now. However, I did want to do something with “write”. And then my family received a Christmas card in the mail that completely inspired me.
Right after we moved into our house 7.5 years ago, a Salvadorian family moved in across the street. The family consisted of a single woman, her adult son, and her aging parents. The elderly parents could not speak English, but were amazingly outgoing and friendly. Marcel, the husband, was always out in the yard working with his stooped body dragging an old milk crate around to sit upon as he pulled weeds and planted. He never once failed to wave to me or my children. We had countless “conversations”, with both of us miming to each other and using what little words we knew in each other’s language to try to communicate, mostly about my kids and his great-grandkids the same age. And every Christmas, Marcel and Sophia, his wife, would bring over a large gift bag full, and I mean FULL, of candies and cookies. My kids loved practicing their Feliz Navidads and Gracias, and I was always struck by their generosity. Then this past summer they moved. I don’t know if Marcel tried to tell me about the upcoming move, he may have and I misinterpreted it. But one day the trucks were there, and the next the family was gone. We never said goodbye.
Yesterday we received their Christmas card in the mail. I can picture him at my door, grinning and gesturing at how big my kids have grown. He moved, but took our address with him. He remembered us. It surprised me how much Marcel’s shakey handwritten message meant to me.
So my W is simply to write to someone, anyone. I’m having my kids write to their teachers, to thank them and express their love for them. I’m writing a letter to Marcel and Sophia. My sister is fluent in Spanish, and I’ll have her to translate for me. I want them to know how much I appreciated their friendship, and how much their remembering my family means to me. Such a simple thing, writing to someone, but there can be love and power in the act. I know our ABC list is simple, and maybe even cheesy. But our hope in doing this is that we can, in maybe a very small way, be more caring, become better helpers in this world.
Here are some others joining in the love, we’d love to have you join us.
Pick a letter, pass it on, do some good, be a helper.