Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Who Are The Helpers?



Fred Rogers once received a wonderful bit of advice from his mother. She told him to always look for the helpers. What she meant was that, in any given dire situation, there will always be people willing to help, to give aid, to make their fellow human beings lives more comfortable. She expressed the idea that one might gain solace from knowing that they are always around, ready to act selflessly.

In my own life, I've seen examples of this. For instance, I have a friend named John King who, on two separate occasions, literally risked life and limb to help strangers.

In 1994, while on a bridge, jogging, in the early morning hours, John saw a pickup truck go into the Fort Point Channel, a rather large body of water which separates South Boston from the Downtown area. He immediately judged the situation to be life-threatening, so he dove into the water with no thought for his own well-being. He helped the driver to safety. The driver told him that there was an additional passenger in the truck. As it turned out, this was untrue - the driver, either in shock or under the influence, was mistaken - but John went back into the water and dove repeatedly looking for this phantom. Pure heroism.

On the other occasion, I was an actual part of John's rescue efforts. We had both attended Sunday mass, accompanied by MY WIFE, and John's wife, Virginia. We were leisurely strolling back to our cars in the parking lot adjacent to the church when we saw a pickup truck with voluminous smoke coming from under the hood. There was a man in the driver's seat, seemingly unaware that his vehicle was on fire.

John ran to the truck, and I followed. He alerted the driver, who exited the vehicle, and then John threw open the hood. Luckily, it was winter and there was snow on the ground. John and I picked up snow and piled it onto the engine until the fire was snuffed. Obviously, we could have been in an explosion at any moment. John was much more the hero than I, by the way, as he showed no hesitation in running toward the danger. Had I been alone, I'm not sure I would have made such a mad dash. I was sort of sucked into his wake.

As heroic and helpful as people like John King are, they aren't completely rare. You can find them in any situation. All you have to do is look. You may have seen film of a plane going down in a river near Washington, DC, some years back. Did you see the people diving into the water and swimming out towards the wreckage to save passengers? Those were the helpers. When you hear a story of someone passing by a burning building and rushing inside to save somebody, that's a helper. There was an instance of a person falling onto the subway tracks in New York City. A complete stranger jumped down into the pit, with an oncoming train bearing down on them both, and pulled the person into a groove in the center of the tracks that was just deep enough to protect them from losing limbs or being crushed. He covered the person's body with his own. They were both unharmed, but without his help the first person would almost surely have died. They're almost always around, someplace, seemingly just waiting for a call to action.

A couple of weeks ago, I counted on the helpers being there waiting. I asked a number of people to show themselves as helpers. Well, if you just plain get into a jam unexpectedly, the helpers will show up. If you actually ask them to help, you'll find more of them than you might have imagined possible. Such was the case for me recently.

(The following will include no actual names, and I'll try to avoid identifiers of any sort as much as is possible. I have no desire to embarrass anyone, nor to compromise any secrets or secret identities. It's a true story, though.)

Via various means, I came to understand that a certain dear friend of mine had never had what might be considered a 'normal' Christmas experience. In addition, this person had suffered some hideous episodes in school during childhood. Part of this was made public on a blog, but additional circumstances were in play - no current job and funds running low.

I consider this person as good a friend as it is possible to have on-line. That is, I've never met the person in person, but we've shared much via e-mail and have come to know each other quite well. I didn't have a home address for this person, so asked for one, to send a Christmas card. I then had an idea. Why not ask the helpers to do what they do - to help?

I composed an e-mail and sent it out to folks whom I thought might be helpers. I asked that they take a minute and send a card to my friend. I figured a handful would respond - it was the height of the Christmas season after all, and folks are mighty busy - but even a handful of cards, to a person who never received any Christmas cards before, would be meaningful and perhaps make the holiday brighter.

To the best of my knowledge, 50 cards have thus far been received by my friend.

Not only was the number amazing, but some cards came with gifts. For instance, one helper sent a lovely bracelet, while another sent a restaurant gift certificate. Many folks sent 5, 10, even 20 or 25 dollars, in cash.

My friend was deeply moved by all of this generosity.

So am I, and that's why I'm publishing this.

All of you helpers - and you know who you are - deserve a big thanks. Being helpers, most of you will pooh-pooh the notion, saying it wasn't anything much. That's the way you helpers are, of course. You tend to shun credit for your actions. You'll say this doesn't compare to jumping into the water and pulling a person out to safety, or rushing to put out an explosive fire, or whatever other more flashy bit of help I referenced above. It does compare, though. It most definitely does. It's not the amount of action undertaken, nor the severity of the situation affected, but the mere fact that you did something noble without a single moment's hesitation. That's what makes you a helper. And that's why you deserve thanks.

(I'd like to do more than just offer this generic thank you, but I won't give names or link to websites; that would give away too much info concerning my good friend, and I believe that person is already overwhelmed without also being put into a spotlight. I know who you good people are, though, and I thank you - all - deeply and sincerely.)

(If my original intent, which was to remain anonymous myself, had panned out, I wouldn't be writing this. Early on, though, folks started telling my friend that I was the one behind the effort. I hadn't asked the helpers to do that - I wish they hadn't, and I wish I had included specific instructions to that effect - but I suppose they figured it was just another helpful thing to do.)

Who are the helpers? You. And me. And lots of others. Next time you're in need of help, look for them. They'll be around, awaiting your call.

Soon, with more better stuff.


45 comments:

Ivan Toblog said...

"(If my original intent, which was to remain anonymous myself, had panned out, I wouldn't be writing this. Early on, though, folks started telling my friend that I was the one behind the effort. I hadn't asked the helpers to do that - I wish they hadn't, and I wish I had included specific instructions to that effect - but I suppose they figured it was just another helpful thing to do.)"

Man, I hate it when that happens. It just creates so much more works. As they say, "no good deed goes unpunished."

Michelle H. said...

What a wonderful thing you did and what wonderful people who were involved! I'm sure your blogger friend greatly appreciates the surprising kindness shown from everyone who responded. You're right, there are helpers out there if you know where to look. And even a simple card can brighten a person's outlook on life.

Eva Gallant said...

A touching story in the middle of the holiday season; thanks for sharing--and thanks to those helpers out there!

Shammickite said...

I recently became a helper to someone who was in a tight spot, but I've recieved nothing but rudeness, spitefulness and unpleasantness.

~jill said...

we call them angels and they are always found in the most unexpected places. what a wondeful gift for your friend!

Granny on the Web said...

A wonderful story here Suldog, and told us once again that there are a lot of really good people about. I am so glad your friend got the cards, how wonderful a gesture of yours.
Love Granny

Suldog said...

Ivan Toblog - Really. It was nice of them to try to give me credit, but they were the ones doing the real work, not me.

Michelle (MDGF) - It's amazing sometimes, isn't it?

Eva - My pleasure to share pleasure!

Suldog said...

Shammickite - If you truly helped someone, and that person repaid you with misery, then that person must be so much more miserable than you might have thought. More's the pity for that person, and more's the reason to cheer you.

Suldog said...

Jill - They truly abound.

Granny - Not me, the others. Thanks.

coopernicus said...

it only takes one person telling another who tells another who tells another....excellent.

Buck said...

Helpers DO abound. I take comfort in this fact when I start to take all the trivial... yet seemingly insurmountably bad... stuff I see all around me these days. "Good news" stories may not sell newspapers but they sure are worthwhile.

Ya done good, Jim.

Hilary said...

Most helpers don't do so for thanks or recognition.. that would be a purely selfish deed. As it is, the act of helping is a win/win situation. Everyone feels good about it.

Christine Macdonald said...

Just lovely. I applaud you. And follow... :)

Teacher's Pet said...

The true meaning of love has been shown.
I think of Red Skelton's closing song, "I'm so glad we had this time together..."
God Bless.

Brian Miller said...

great post suldog...i love my helpers...and i love to help when i can...thank you for thinking of them...

lime said...

you're a helper, dear suldog and i am honored to call you a friend.

Janet said...

The helpers wouldn't have known without your prompting. ;)

Thumbelina said...

There are some incredible souls in the world.
You are one of them friend, and your friends that helped are too.
As is the friend who received the help and accepted it with such good grace, although overwhelmed.

God bless the lot of you!

Mr. Knucklehead said...

This was a great thing you put together, Jim, and while I know you'll "pooh-pooh" it yourself, you WERE the impetus. You should be proud, but also consider yourself fortunate to know so many "helpers". We are fortunate to know you, most certainly.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Generally, people are amazing....more amazing than even they know. I love how humans can rise to what circumstances demand. It is always awe-inspiring.

Loved this post.

Karen said...

This is a heartwarming post. I've never teared up at a blog post before (mostly because I have a food blog and how can you tear up at a meatloaf dinner??), but I teared up tonight, yes, I did.

My word verification: rumBLESS

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Way to go, Jim, the leading angel for the other 50 angels. Thanks for sharing this touching post. "Ask, Believe, Receive" - it's no secret anymore! Nice work my friend.
Peace, Judi

Ananda girl said...

Wonderful story... and so true. The goodness of people is hidden under the surface and they can do amazing things when called upon... not thinking until after.

Crazed Mom said...

During the days when my baby was at home in his final weeks of life, and my spouse had been unemployed for about a year~the helpers came out of the woodwork. Meals, childcare for the older boys, presents for their Christmas(one an almost 5yo and a 7yo will never forget), financial aid, prayer groups, special little things like a hand painted ornaments with my dying baby boy's name on it and First(and only) Christmas, cards and then help for when he died in setting up a memorial etc. People whose names I may not remember but who's actions I will never forget. Nor did I forget that God graced us with that beautiful baby boy for 10 months, 11 days and I was holding him in my arms when he went to heaven one icy yet brilliant February day. Helpers are inherently modest and usually consider no one but the person(s) they are helping.

Good job Jim and Thanks for reminding me of some wonderful people.

David said...

Great job suldog! Kudos from your buddy in Utah!

Jeni said...

There have been many, many times during my life when helpers such as you talk about here, did come out of the woodwork and gave me just the right assistance I needed at that time. Before my older daughter was born, the girls I worked with gave me a baby shower and one of the gifts the friends I was closest to gave me was a crib! Friends of my best friend from high school loaned me or gave me things their children had outgrown from a baby carriage, playpen, bathinette and clothes, clothes and more clothes. As my kids grew up, frequently and usually just in the nick of time too it seemed, someone around me brought hand-me-downs of just the right size. My son's Godparents asked if they could take him for a three week visit to their home in Florida when he was 12, thus enabling him to fly for the first time and also, to see Epcot Center and just about every other theme park in Florida. And younger daughter too had people who came through and took her places with them that I could never have been able to do for her. When I was diagnosed with cancer, a very dear friend from our church showed up a week after my diagnosis just to "visit" and when he left, he pressed several bills in my hand. I won't go into how many but suffice it to say, it kept me afloat for almost 10 months. Little things, big things -all at just the right time! I'm usually not in a position to do much for others that requires a lot of money, but because of having had so many gifts come my way, I do try to reciprocate wherever and whenever I can with whatever I have at my disposal at that point in time. It would be totally ungrateful for all that has been given to me over the years not to do that, wouldn't it? I'm no here, that's for sure, but I am one very grateful individual for whom much has been done and/or given. And your passing along of a bit of information gave a lot of folks a chance to pay something forward a bit!

slommler said...

God bless the helpers!! Thanks for sharing this wonderful example of people who care!!
Happy New Year
Hugs
SueAnn

Suldog said...

Crazed Mom - Very touching reminiscence on your part. Thank you for sharing that. God bless!

Eleonora said...

You're the helper supreme for rounding up your posse of helpers. Your blogger friend is very fortunate to have you.

I am very touched by this story, it speaks to my heart.

Ciao
Lola xx

Maggie May said...

What wonderful people who are often sent to help others in times of dire need.
Some would call them angels in disguise.

I can't think that many others would have done that train track rescue or the deep water rescue for a phantom! Thank Goodness that they did.

Nuts in May

Daryl said...

Ivan is right ...

Chris Stone said...

great post! and good on the helpers. the subway story still gives me chills.

*i haven't sent out cards yet. but i will! soon! want another?* *lol.*

Moannie said...

I thank the day I found Blogland-and you.

Shrinky said...

(Smiling and smiling) you took the trouble to reach out and to touch someone you have come to know and to care about, someone whom it appears is a very remarkable person in their own right. Like attracts like, Jim. As Hilary says, sounds a win-win situation all round. (Hugs)

Cricket said...

A man once prayed: Lord, why don't you send someone to do something about all the evil in the world?

The Lord answered: I did send somebody. I sent you.

Ivan Toblog (aka IT) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ivan Toblog (aka IT) said...

I'm not too sure how to break the news, but you have another award. It's over at my place.

Suldog said...

Ivan - Are you shitting me? I thought you liked me. I would have thought you might like my new year to be a happy one, but obviously not.

OK, I'll be over to pick it up. Prepare to be barbecued in 2010.

Ivan Toblog said...

Brisket with a Memphis rub, please, sauce on the side.

Anali said...

It does make me feel better knowing that there are so many good people in the world. After watching the news day in and out, it can be easy to forget. Thanks for reminding us. All the best to you in 2010 my friend! : )

Gaston Studio said...

You know that barrell of rotten apples everyone talks about? It's really very, very tiny!

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Bless the helpers, there are not enough of them, I fear.

Ericka said...

i believe in karma. this'll probably get you a free pass with all sorts of cool stuff. if not, it certainly should!

well done, sully.

GreenJello said...

As I had no Christmas cards this year, I didn't send any out to anyone.... :(

I give away my Christmas bonus every year. It's one of my traditions. I consistently did it, even during my leanest times. I figured at least I had a job with money coming in. Others aren't always so lucky.

Jenn said...

I am totally misting up over here. Such a beautiful story all around. Angels among us and you are most certainly one Jim.

Merry Little Christmas to you and your WIFE today!