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.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.
–Mr. Fred Rogers
The bombs exploded. And immediately, amongst the screams and confusion, people began rushing into the danger zone. Uniformed police officers, firefighters and EMTs all rushed toward the rising smoke. National Guardsmen, some of whom have undoubtedly seen combat, did not hesitate. Onlookers and bystanders, lucky enough to escape injury, rushed to help those around them. First responders reminded us why they are heroes, and ordinary citizens reminded us that anyone can be a hero.
Mr. Rogers famous quote about looking for helpers in the midst of chaos quickly surfaced after the heart-breaking bombing this past Monday of the Boston Marathon. It has been a quote I have often heard throughout my lifetime. Mr. Rogers recounted the story in his 1983 book, Mr. Rogers Talks with Parents and since then it as been a message of reassurance to frightened children and adults alike.
Of course, there is a deeper message than what appears on the surface. Mr. Rogers was telling us to do more than just look for the do-gooders in a moment of disaster. Fred Rogers was a devoutly religious man, a Presbyterian minister, and the message that his mother shared with him, which he later shared with us, has Christian underpinnings.
Hebrews 13:6 tells us, “The Lord is my helper and I won’t be afraid. What can people do to me?”
The letter to the Hebrews was written at a time when Christian believers were being persecuted and being killed in atrocious ways. It was a terrifying time to be a follower of Jesus Christ. It is not surprising that the people who were liable to be carted off as food for lions were in desperate need of encouragement.
It would have been irresponsible of the writer to claim that no harm would come of those believers… and yet, that appears to be exactly what he does when he almost taunts, “What can people do to me?”
The Christians had seen enough of their brothers and sisters tortured and murdered to know that there was plenty that their persecutors could do to their physical bodies. But they also knew, deep down in their hearts, that their belief in Christ had freed them from the bonds of sin and death. Yes, their physical bodies would perish. And for some of them, it would be a painful death. But in the end, what harm did that really do? Pain was but for a moment… the eternal life in God’s presence was forever. So what power did their persecutors really over the believers?
They could torment the believers. They could persecute them. They could nail them to crosses, toss them into pits, impale them, burn them alive, feed them to the lions for sport… but those actions would not give them power over the believers.
Death, even unpleasant death, was a release from a troubled world and eternity with Christ. They lived every single moment of their lives with that belief. Their persecutors never had a chance.
When terrorists sneak in through the shadows and mingle amongst the crowd, planting their tools of destruction, they would seek to steal away our peace of mind, reduce us to blobs of self-centered scaredy cats who will run and protect ourselves rather than love our neighbor. They would destroy our sense of unity, upset our sense of safety, and sew discord amongst each other.
But the helpers are the ones who foil those plans.
They are the ones who see fear and destruction and rush toward it. They are the ones who see the bleeding bodies lying in the streets, and rush to the hospital to give their own blood. They are the bystanders who run to the injured, tear their own clothes to pieces to fashion tourniquets. They are the ones who lift up the fallen, soothe the cries of the broken, and help even when everything about the situation tells them to protect themselves instead.
Our Lord is our helper, and so those who choose to love their neighbor and come to offer help even in the most terrifying moments, are the people doing God’s will.
So, when the dark things happen in this world. Look for the helpers. They are the ones standing in a place of love. And there you will find God.