Lasky: Be the helper

Lasky: Be the helper

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If you follow the news -- any kind of news -- you’ve probably been upset by something you learned recently. I don’t know what specifically, but odds are, it was something.

I understand that feeling pretty well. I worked in newspapers for almost a decade, getting a daily dose of news. In that time, just like my coworkers and the audience we served, I was occasionally shocked, scared or just plain angry about something that was going on somewhere in the world.

But I hope you’ll also hear about the helpers.

These are the people who see a problem and do what they can to fix or resolve it. These are our law enforcement officials, firefighters, soldiers, medical professionals and others who work to make things better for us all.

Some of these problems are caused by humans, such as crime, pollution and political mudslinging. Others -- sickness, many natural disasters and other unfortunate situations -- were never really ours to control. Helpers jump in to combat all kinds.

In my own career, I work with volunteers who give time to ensure wishes are granted for children with critical illnesses. What they do is just one example of how to be a helper. You could also work to address hunger, poverty, isolation or a vast array of other problems.

Many of us owe our perspective on helpers to children’s TV host Fred Rogers, of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”

"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,’" Rogers said. “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.”

That’s valuable advice for children, who may have to face many troubling events as they grow. Our world is full of conflict, complexity and uncertain situations, from the political to the personal, and it is hard to understand them in childhood.

But Mister Rogers’ advice also applies to adults. It reminds us to be the helpers, not just look for them.

We don’t stop needing helpers as we grow, and finding them in a scary situation can be as comforting to us now as it was when we were young. We navigate difficult and dangerous circumstances all the time. What changes as we grow is that we start being able to become the helpers ourselves.

We can all do something to help someone in a hard situation. It doesn’t even have to involve special training or expertise. It may be enough to smile at someone who needs it, or share a hug or other support with someone for whom that could make a difference.

In time, we can learn more about the dangers around us -- from tiny to global -- and find ways to make a difference in those spaces, too.

As Rogers told his viewers, “There are many ways to say I love you. There are many ways to say I care.”

This November and all year, I am grateful for our helpers and for Rogers’ advice, which reminds children to find the helpers and adults to become the helpers the next generation needs.

I’m also looking forward to seeing the movie about him, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” which premieres this month. I’m hoping it will be a powerful reminder about what really matters.

No matter what kind of caring or loving matters to you, I hope you have time to celebrate it this month -- and give thanks for a world where there are helpers.

Mandy Lasky, a former Star-Tribune opinion editor, currently works for Make-A-Wish Wyoming in Casper. Her column about life in Casper and Wyoming has appeared on this page since 2016.

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