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Look for the Helpers

June 2, 2020 | by Jessica Brenner

Celebrating heroism instead of amplifying our differences.

The public sentiment is clear: 2020 is a year of little hope. Between a global pandemic and the recent outbreak of protests and riots in dozens of US cities following the death of George Floyd, my own prayer that we would emerge from quarantine with unity and perspective does not seem to be yet answered.

Fred Rogers famously told viewers of Mr. 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.” (This statement came from the man who also famously soaked his feet in a blowup pool with Officer Clemmons, an African American man cast as a police officer on Neighborhood in 1969 – a subtle but unmistakable demonstration against segregated swimming pools.)

Taking a note from America’s most beloved children’s show host, here are some of my favorite helpers from the last week:

  1.  Sheriff Chris Swanson in Flint, Michigan who announced, “The only reason we are here is to make sure you’ve got a voice...we’ve put down our batons. I wanna turn this into a parade, not a protest.” When the protestors began to chant in response, “Walk with us,” he did.

  2.  Police officers in Santa Cruz, CA and Coral Gables, FL who kneeled with the local community, again without gear, exemplifying peaceful leadership.

  3. The Minneapolis nurses who headed straight from lengthy hospital shifts to offer aid to injured protestors.

  4. The 100-year-old Muslim man who chose to send a message of unity by raising $207,000 for COVID-19 victims during Ramadan.

  5.  The protestors who formed a human shield around a Louisville officer who was separated from his squad, protecting him from harm.

  6. Peaceful protestors in Newark, New Jersey who chose to dance to the Cupid Shuffle rather than riot.

  7. The volunteers who cleaned up Minneapolis after the first nights of protests.

  8. The two women who stopped a crowd from looting a store in North Carolina because “people work too hard” to have their property destroyed.

  9. All of the public figures who are quieting their own social media platforms to make room for diverse voices: “No posts for the time being. Amplify voices that should be heard during this critical time,” one wrote. The general sentiment: I know I don’t understand your experience. But I am here to listen.

There are people who want to hear, understand, help, and heal. These stories aren’t making the news as often as they should, but they are happening all the time. Let’s celebrate their heroism instead of amplifying our differences.

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