Look for the Helpers

December 17, 2012


By Amy Hackworth.

I would have preferred not to say anything to our children about Friday’s shootings. I would have preferred to let them continue to live in a world where they didn’t know things like this happen, where this sort of inconceivable heartbreak doesn’t exist, where explanations of this sort are unnecessary.

But I knew they’d hear about it at school, and I knew I wanted them to hear the simple facts from us. My husband asked for some advice on Facebook about how to talk to our boys about what happened. Thoughtful, caring friends shared beautiful ideas and links, including their concern for us, and their trust that we’d do what was best for our kids.

One friend shared a message from Mr. Rogers. I saw it posted again later that day on Facebook, and maybe you’ve seen it, too.

“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

It’s a comforting approach, and so true. As I read the responses to my husband’s call for advice — and Mr. Rogers’ words in particular — I realized that our friends were our helpers. In this tragedy, my husband and I are heartsick, distanced observers and the help we needed was advice, friendship, counsel. Our friends offered wisdom and support. They shared their grief, concern for their kids, too, and their ideas for taking positive action. I’m so grateful for the rescue workers and other official helpers who are heroes, but I’m thankful, too, for the simple ways people offered help to us.

I’m shaken, sickened, by Friday’s news, crying for everyone involved, and mostly at a loss for anything productive to say. So far, one clear thought has emerged from my disbelief and sadness: we can all be helpers — sometimes small, sometimes big, always meaningful. We need each other, and we help each other, and we need to help each other.

That’s an answer to violence and damage. That’s the world I want to teach my children about.

Our conversation with our boys was guided by some helpful tips, including age-specific advice. What did you say to your children about the shootings? How are you taking positive action, and what are the ways you’re seeing others take positive action?

Also, several ways to donate to Sandy Hook. And image found here.

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 jill December 17, 2012 at 11:24 am

Amy, thanks for this… Mr. Rogers was an amazing person.


2 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay December 17, 2012 at 11:58 am

Thank you for sharing this. I had knee surgery on Friday. My husband woke me up later in the day sobbing. I was in a daze of pain killers all weekend. My husband was doing the best he could with the kids and work and everything. My daughter asked my husband why the flags were at half mast. He told her that there had been a terrible shooting. They were on their way to a party so he didn’t get into it. I woke up today having already sent my kids to school knowing that they didn’t hear the message from me, their Mom, about what happened. It isn’t how I would normally do things. I feel sick to my stomach knowing they may find out from other kids. The school is at the ready with counselors and they have met together as a staff to support each other. They are doing the best they can. I just want my babies home so I can talk to them. There are always helpers. Who knew the parents would need to hear that message as much as the kids do. Thank you.


3 Angela DeMuro December 17, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Thank you for a comforting reminder. Yes, there is still good in the world.


4 Angela December 17, 2012 at 4:20 pm

perfectly put


5 Giulia December 17, 2012 at 5:09 pm

i love this.
when you look at “lastest news” all you see are therapy dogs hugging children, politicians crying, a man from california buying coffee for all newtown, strangers helping other strangers, kind words and obama holding the principal’s granddaughter :)
we live in a messed up society. but we have good people.


6 Laura Trevey December 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

YES, there are GOOD people in the world, and we need to celebrate them. Thanks for the reminder…


7 Elsa December 17, 2012 at 6:58 pm

There’s a quote that I’ve been really holding onto these past few days.

“I have seen and I know that people can be beautiful and happy without losing the ability to live on Earth. I will not and cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of mankind.”–Fyodor Dostoevsky.


8 Amy M December 18, 2012 at 10:07 pm

What a beautiful quote. Thank you for sharing.


9 jennifer December 17, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Years ago, I was driving my (then) 4-year-old daughter home from school when we witnessed a terrible, terrible freeway accident. With my own heart breaking because of what we had seen, I had no idea how to comfort and console the tender soul in the backseat. I called her wise and loving teacher who told me to speak to my daughter of angels. Tell her all about the angels she could see (the first responders and people who stopped on the side of the busy freeway to assist) and the angels sent from God who we couldn’t see, but were there to help, comfort, guide and bring peace. Now, when I face another broken heart (like I did on Friday), I think of all the angels, all the helpers, and I try to be an angel to someone in need.

I also think of the amazing Polish poet Adam Zagajewski and his poem, “Try to Praise the Mutilated World”, which appeared in the September 2001 issue of the New Yorker. Reading it always gives me hope for a brighter future.


10 kricket December 17, 2012 at 8:51 pm

“And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on the earth, good-will to men.”


11 Genevieve Weaver December 18, 2012 at 1:02 am

The U.S. Postal Service has established an address where people can send letters of condolence to the people of Newtown, the service’s Maureen Marion tells CNN. Here is the address:

Message of Condolence
PO Box 3700
Newtown, CT 06470


12 Ann December 18, 2012 at 7:29 am

Thank you for this. My husband and I have just been silent with our boys and avoiding the tv. When it happened I was out to lunch at a restaurant with my older son and he was watching it on the news. It took me a second to figure out what was going on and I told him to turn away from the news but he had already read enough. We sat down to lunch and I had him face me and not the screen because there were screens all over the place. He said to me, “Mom, this is why we have internal drills at school.” I just started tearing up, thinking, “Internal drills?!” He knows this. He is prepared and it just made me sad that we live in a society that we have to prepare for things like this. Thank you for giving me hope to look for the helpers.


13 Amy M December 18, 2012 at 10:19 pm

I’ve found that clarity is completely out of reach in the wake of this tragedy. I am torn up inside at the thought of those women and young children losing their lives in such a senseless way, and scared for the day that my children will have to deal with this kind of terrorism. But hearing the words of other parents that are struggling with this helps me feel a little more prepared to face this. Thank you for sharing, truly.


14 Anneliese December 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm

Such a beautiful post. Thank you. There are so many helpers. And there is no way to make sense of the bad, or the incredible good in response to it. The grace and the forgiveness some of those survivors are exhibiting… Human behavior, and individual will, are so complex, aren’t they? I come up with my own ways to keep moving forward but I am gratefu my little ones are samll enough to be oblivious…for now anyway.


15 Miss Lindsey D December 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

Amy thanks for sharing with such honesty. That Mister Rogers quote is perfect. Really brings some hope to what can seem so hopeless. Thank you


16 Mrs. LIAYF December 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm

I love Mr. Rogers, and have always loved this quote. My kindergartener was home from school sick that day, so thnksfully I had him close by. My husband and talked on the phone and wept as our son was napping. He’s at a very small school that only goes to 2nd grade, so all the parents and the teacher agreed it would not be a topic of conversation, but that counseling would be available for children who learned about it elsewhere. Luckily, he never heard a word. I will take a few more years of innocence.


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