Pay It Forward Pt. 2: Making Helpers
Last week, I posted about the importance of Paying It Forward and promised to try and pay forward little, un-asked-for favors all week long whenever I could. I did that. I bought random coffees for people, I held doors… little things. I tried to take extra moments to say hi to the people at the school I usually ignore because most of my days in the school are stressful, and they still deserve my politeness no matter what my personal problem is. The biggest thing was probably when a man at Wendy’s asked me to come help him with his crossword puzzle because he was stuck. I helped him. I’m not sure why he picked me to ask… I’m not exactly “scholarly” of appearance. But he did, and I was thrilled to help him figure it out.
As I helped this man with his crossword, my kids watched and listened. When it was time to leave, my daughter said to me, “That was nice of you. I’m glad you can tell between good strangers and bad strangers.” (My kids are well-versed in stranger-danger.)
That was before tragedy struck innocent lives in Boston, and before the whole world was reminded of the helpers thanks to a wonderful quote by Fred Rogers that Michelle posted last December when there was a loss of innocent lives. This picture circulates virally every time we need a reminder to find some small measure of good in a terrible situation.
We can pay it forward all we want.
We can look for the helpers all we want.
The world is a smaller place without Fred Rogers because he dedicated his life to a pair of shoes NO ONE has been able to fill on their own.
He had a purpose we now must adopt if we are going to raise a better tomorrow and hope to cushion these tragedies with helpers, with love, with healing.
We need to MAKE the helpers.
Most of the adults helping during tragedies like that in Boston probably at least KNEW about Mr. Rogers when they were growing up. They probably knew the song that went with the show. “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor…” And they learned to help based on the lessons they learned young.
I don’t give a shit what religion you are, what God you believe in, if you don’t believe in God, if you believe in twenty of them. I don’t care what you think waits for you in the afterlife or if you plan to come back as a butterfly or spend eternity in a pile of glitter and booze. It doesn’t matter. Fred Rogers may have been a religious man, but he taught children without question of their spiritual background, putting out a TV show that shaped the consciences of so many children.
And he was making helpers. Are we still making helpers without him?
This week I promise to continue to pay it forward, but I also promise to teach my children to do the same. I’m going to ask them to look for a time when someone needs some extra help – stranger or not – and offer it without expectation of payback in any way. I’m going to talk to them about the importance of helping, of being ready to jump in when someone needs it and do the right thing.
They are too young to hear what actually happened in either event: December or Now. Not without earning a level of fear I don’t think is necessary for their little minds. That’s my judgement call as a parent, and I stand by it… but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn from these kinds of things, when they so unfortunately happen. They can learn to help and hopefully will be eager to apply that lesson later in life when they are no longer sheilded from the sometimes-ugly and absolutely-breathtaking human experience that is LIFE.
I would love for you to join me, this week, in making helpers. Teach children to help other people without wondering what they’ll get in return. Teach them to share, to love, to make the world a better place… just as Fred Rogers taught children to do.
Fred Rogers said, “I went into television because I hated it so, and I thought there’s some way of using this fabulous instrument to nurture those who would watch and listen.”
They’re watching. They’re listening. I’m going to make sure this week is full of things I am proud my kids see and hear, in the hopes that they’ll do things I am proud to watch them do. And I’m going to teach them whenever I can.
Thank you to the helpers of all shapes and sizes, in Boston and elsewhere – thank you to everyone here, because support is help as well. Thank you to the lovely fellow authors of this blog and all the amazing moments we share with each other and readers.