Monday, April 15, 2013

Look For The Helpers

We will prevail. That is what Nikki Giovanni told Virginia Tech 6 years ago today. We ARE Virginia Tech, and we will prevail. In the wake of a brutal and senseless massacre, we needed that guidance, that hope, that help. Nikki Giovanni was a helper. 

During finals week two years ago, a gunman walked onto campus killing an officer at point blank range, jarring our gradually healing campus to its core. David McKee, the director of the Marching Virginian’s threw himself in front of his office door until he was sure it was law enforcement coming to move us to a safer place. We were getting out of there together or none of us were – but he was on the front lines. Dave McKee was a helper. 

This fall, Hurricane Sandy tore through the eastern seaboard leaving millions without power, thousands homeless, and countless broken hearted. A group of people decided to start a Facebook page called For Shore in an effort to reunite pictures, heirlooms, and other irreplaceable items with their families. They are an inspiration – they are also helpers.

Not many months ago, first grade teacher Victoria Soto lost her life while saving her students, becoming a human shield to Adam Lanza’s bullet spray at Sandy Hook Elementary. Janet Vollmer read to her students while the shooting took place, hoping, that even if they were to die, her voice would be the last thing they heard… not the gunfire. Those teachers were helpers.

On Friday afternoon, a young man opened fire at NRV Community College right in the middle of a mall, severely injuring two women. An unarmed guard talked the shooter into holding fire – with no weapon. That security guard was a helper.

Just yesterday, two bombs were detonated in the streets of Boston at what is considered by many to be one of the most prestigious marathons in existence. First responders were on the scene in seconds, running, not walking, straight into the aftermath of the explosions. Civilians took off their shirts and their belts to fashion tourniquets in an effort to assist the wounded. They are all heroes – and they are all helpers.

Some runners proceeded to the finish line, through the finish line, and past it – straight to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood after running over 25 miles. 
Those runners are helpers.

Why all this talk about helpers? Because one of my favorite quotes from a childhood TV show has rightfully made a recent comeback:

We – myself included – are SO quick to cry “what is this world coming to?” We pick a deity and pray because we lose all faith in the humanity that we sometimes forget we’re a part of. The truth is, I’m not sure what this world is coming to, but I am sure there are still good people in it. I know that the admirable actions of these helpers are more powerful than any act of violence and will resonate appropriately as time passes. These ordinary people doing extraordinary things despite unthinkable tragedy gives me hope.

It doesn’t have to be national TV to constitute a tragedy and you don’t have to make headlines to be a helper – most don’t. There is a helper in the friend who knows they need to catch you before you know you’ve fallen; in the card that comes in the mail even though handwritten notes are an endangered species; in the homemade meal you weren’t expecting; in the cup of coffee you wouldn’t have had time to brew; in the quarter a stranger places in your parking meter just before you run out of time. Sometimes the simplest spontaneous acts of human compassion mean the most.

It is in the helping that we heal - and in the helping that we prevail.  
Be a helper – thank a helper – and on your next bad day, look for the helpers.
You will always find people who are helping.