Monday, April 21, 2014
Fred Rogers, of Mister Rogers Neighborhood fame, told of advice given him by his mother. He had been witness to a traumatic event. His mother, seeing him shaken, told him that one should always look for “the helpers”. In any dire situation, there will be people willing to help, to give aid, to their fellow humans. She said that one might gain solace from knowing that they are always around, ready to act selflessly. She was right.
In 1994, a truck drove into the Fort Point Channel in South Boston. My friend John, out for an early morning jog, saw this happen. With no consideration for his own safety, John dove into the water from the bridge he was on to make a rescue.
On another occasion, I was a part of John's rescue effort. We had attended mass with our wives. We were strolling back to our cars, in the parking lot adjacent to the church, when we saw smoke pouring from under the hood of a pick-up truck. A man in the driver's seat was unaware of the fire. John ran to the truck. I followed. John alerted the driver and then threw open the hood. Luckily, it was winter, so John and I piled snow onto the engine until the fire was out.
(I hasten to add John was much more the hero than I. Had I been alone, I don't know if I would have rushed toward an imminent explosion. I was sort of sucked into John's wake.)
You may recall, some years back, a plane going down in a river near Washington, DC. People dove into the water, swam out to the wreckage, and pulled passengers to safety. Not too long ago, there was the story of a man falling onto subway tracks in New York City. A complete stranger jumped into the pit as a train bore down on both men. The stranger pulled the man into a groove between the tracks and shielded his body with his own as the train passed over them safely.
We need only look to last year's bombing of the Boston Marathon to see one of the greatest instances of “the helpers” doing what they do. The most famous may be Carlos Arredondo, easily discernible in his cowboy hat while rescuing Jeff Bauman, but there were many others who rushed toward danger rather than away from it. They are always around, someplace, seemingly just waiting for a call to action.
Fred Rogers' mother suggested that solace may be taken from their presence. That's a good idea, but I think we can do better. I'd like to suggest that anyone who feels inconvenienced today by a random search, or perhaps a delay in getting to a destination, consider that the person conducting the search, or delaying them slightly, may have been one of “the helpers” last year, or may in fact be one in waiting. Instead of focusing on the inconvenience, it might be nice to say thank you in advance. And then to say a prayer of thanks if it turns out – as is hoped - that “the helpers” aren't needed this time around.