Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Watch Out For The Helpers

Every time there is a tragedy, I see at least one person post Mr. Rogers' advice to look for the helpers.

“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.” Fred Rogers

Yes, this was a wonderful thing to teach a child because no matter how many people there are who intend to cause harm, there are more of us willing to jump in and lend a hand to perfect strangers simply because they are human beings in need of help. We are a helpful nation. If you're laughing now, I'm sorry for you because your vision has been blurred by the hateful. We are a helpful nation, a helpful people, who truly care about others, our own and not our own. We gladly send aid to individuals we don't know, including to countries where we've never been, and we believe it's right to do this, to the extent it's still helpful rather than creating dependency, which is no good for anyone.

Our innate survival genes automatically realize we're all in this together, that we need each other.

Children need to understand that the world is a balance; there is good and bad and in between, there is joy and pain, courage and fear. It's all there, as it must be.

It often feels very one-sided. Sometimes it is one-sided in certain situations. Sometimes that side is for the good, sometimes not. The important thing is to understand there are two sides and the pendulum swings for everyone.

There is another side of this entry title, however. Don't only look for the helpers, watch out for them.

Helpers are often everyday people who simply jump in here and there as they feel the need, but more often helper becomes a permanent label for those who are always watching for others in need, those who always jump in to help, regardless of how tired or stressed they are themselves, who are always the go-to person either in their home or in their community. Usually, that's because 1) they're willing, and 2) they're strong enough to put others first even when they could seriously use the help they're giving.

I'm sure we all know people like this. Some of you reading this are people like this. Hugs to you, if you are. It's a beautiful thing, but it's exhausting, so be careful.

It's easy for others to think: well, they should say no if they aren't up to it. The problem is: no, they can't just say no. Either they were taught it's their role in life to put everyone else above them (sadly), or something inside refuses to let anyone down. Often that's because they've been let down too often or too hard and they can't stand the thought of others going through the same. They are sweet, sensitive, caring souls who have often been hurt and instead of turning it around to hurt others (as many will), they turn it to helping others and will hurt themselves doing so.

Watch for these people.

~ Watch for that always-together person who often volunteers to bake cookies for a fundraiser, or to work at a fundraiser, with a smile. Behind that smile could be a bedraggled grimace they don't let you see, covering the fact they're both glad to be able to help, again, and wondering when even one person is going to step in and help them at some point. Maybe there's a lawn that needs to be cut that they can't get to, and their neighbors complain while not understanding how many things need to be done and it just keeps piling up while not one person steps in to lend a return hand.

~ Watch for the Mom taking care of everything for her family even when she's overwhelmed and behind, who always puts everyone else's needs first, who bends over backward to make sure the family is thriving. That mom, even with a smile on her face, could easily be at a breaking point no one else can see. She's strong. She's smart. She can do it. Go ask Mom. Mom knows this or that. Mom can figure it out. Be careful. Mom is a person. Even a very strong person's shoulders get tired and begin to collapse with enough weight. Still, she helps.

~ Watch for the Dad who puts in his 40 hours and sometimes more at a physically exhausting job and when the neighbor's phone rings needing help, he drags up onto his tired feet to go help with a smile and a no problem anytime he's called. He may be dealing with a child he can't control, an illness in the family, a boss who gives him grief all day until he feels cut to the core. Still, he helps.

~ Watch for those always in the community taking on volunteer coaching, scouting, and other roles for the good of the community. They may have been guilted into it. They may be wondering when someone else is going to take their turn. They may be dealing with rudeness from parents who don't like how they're doing what they're doing. They may be dealing with all of that after a day of dealing with a gruff boss or issues at home or not feeling well and showing up anyway. How often in your community is it always the same few people who stand up to help? What are you doing to help them in return?

~Watch out for those always trying to make others laugh, always trying to make sure others are okay. That is often a sign of hurting and not wanting others to feel the same. Their own pain is covered up and shoved aside, in lieu of watching out for anyone in need. Keep an eye on these people. Ask them if they need anything. Often, it's the most depressed among us who look the happiest and the strongest.

~Watch out for that friend who is always there for you, always putting aside what s/he is doing if you call for a crying shoulder, always playing the role of the strong one because s/he is strong and wants to help, always. Friendship needs to be a two-way street, not clingy, not overly needy, but mutually supportive. Too much on one side will lead to ruin.

Watch out to be sure you're not one of those relying on someone else more than is good for them. Don't be one of those people. No matter how strong someone is, no matter how often they smile and say everything's fine, they could be at the breaking point no one bothers to see. They could be collapsing in exhaustion, physically or mentally, at night when no one is paying attention. Watch out for them. Turn the tables and give them a hand. Helping others can help you feel better. Realize they may be thinking NO and may never say it; they need you to pay attention.

Pushing helpers past the healthy point is not only bad for them; it's bad for you. Lean when you need to lean and then stand up again and offer a hand.

Watch out for those around you, especially those who seem to need no help. No one doesn't need help at times. No one.

Wishing you all a kinder, gentler, more thoughtful and watchful new year ahead. 💝