When tragedy strikes, we are inundated with news and information, and our country’s most recent tragedy is no exception. Coverage online, in print and on television is continuous in the aftermath of the horror that struck at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
It is hard to escape the images and the stories of the lone gunman, his 27 victims and the subsequent anguish felt far beyond the geographical boundaries of a small Connecticut town. The senseless deaths of so many – and so many young children – didn’t just shake our faith in humanity. It pummeled it.
But then, there emerged the amazing stories of heroism in Newtown. Of teachers and staff members who scrambled to move children to safety when the shooting began. Of a principal and school psychologist who tried to stop the gunman and died in the process. Of a janitor who made his way down the hallway making sure doorways were locked. Of the teacher who stepped between the gunman and her students.
These stories remind us of the words of Mister Rogers’ – whose thoughts and photo have gone viral in recent days – and we repeat his words here, because they are so relevant at this time: “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.”
We cannot turn back the clock on Newtown. We cannot change the horrific outcome. What we can do is remind ourselves – and our children – that we can all be “helpers” in some small way.
Every day, people in our paths have their personal “disasters” that are devastating in their own way: the neighbor awaiting medical test results; the coworker whose child is taunted by relentless bullies; the friend whose husband lost his job last year and is still looking for something new; the mall worker whose sibling is struggling with addiction.
We can all be helpers to these people in our everyday lives. It can be a simple smile, a sidewalk shoveled, a home-cooked meal. It can be a listening ear, change left in a snack machine at work, or an offer to walk dog.
There are little things we can do every day. Maybe they won’t change the overwhelming emotions that people are dealing with, but perhaps they will smile for just a moment.
Mother Theresa said, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
But what a difference one small act can make. One small act not only helps the hurting. It makes the “doer” feel good. It can help us heal, one simple act at a time.