At this writing, during the outbreak of COVID-19, we acknowledge that many of you have heavy hearts. We are traveling in uncharted waters, and have many concerns about the present and the future. We know that many gifted individuals, children and adults alike, feel things very deeply. We may seek news, and yet be frightened or immobilized by it; we may feel the pain of the world, and yet feel impotent to mitigate it; we may crave company and comfort, yet understand the need for social distancing; we may worry about our loved ones, our country and our world, we may also worry about ourselves and our own health and resilience, and we may feel helpless.
Yet during these strange and difficult times, there are so many rays of hope, so many helpers. As many of you know, one of Mr. Rogers’ often quoted pieces of advice included these words: “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.’” Whether you are helping your child/ren to navigate these turbulent times, calming your own fears, or helping others find solace, looking for the helpers is one way to center yourself and your loved ones.
So many individuals, groups, agencies, institutions, and corporations have emerged as “helpers” these past weeks and months, and we’d like to highlight some of them, and encourage you to think about how they use their gifts and talents in service to our world. Also our hope is that the stories shared will give you and your loved ones hope during the coming weeks and months, and may provide thoughtful and grateful conversations about what it means to be a “helper”.
First of all, our medical and safety professionals - our scientists, our doctors and nurses, first responders and hospital staff, police officers and firefighters -- deserve our most grateful thanks. They are literally putting their lives on the line for the health and safety of us all. In the words of David Ho, of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University, “Behind the scenes, too, so many people are contributing, from those discovering small-molecule drugs that could block various enzymes of this virus, to coming up with antibodies that could neutralize it.” The gift of intellectual curiosity and academic pursuit, combined with the boots-on-the-ground delivery of care, is astounding.
Our government officials have been making tough decisions daily, with the scenario changing rapidly -- locally, nationally and internationally. Many pray for wisdom and guidance for our leaders, and celebrate the gift of leadership.
Then there are the transportation and logistics people and those keeping open vital services, such as grocery stores and pharmacies and utilities. Our nation’s industries and ingenious individuals have stepped up their game, many of them changing direction during this time of need. We are seeing undergarment companies making masks, alcohol distilleries making hand sanitizer, individuals using their 3D printers to make valves for ventilators, and even teenagers creating 3D printer prototypes for ventilators, to name a few. Ingenuity is alive and well. The gift of creativity is flourishing.
Without a doubt, our educators have been heroes/helpers during these difficult times. With very little training, and certainly very little time, educators at all levels are “building new planes and simultaneously flying them,” collaborating in ways that are magical and promising for both the present and the future. Overnight, virtual support groups of teachers have seen memberships grow to thousands, virtual resources are being shared daily, and educators are striving to reach out to families and individual students with challenge, comfort, and assistance. Though crafting the balance between academics and family time/leisure time has been tricky, most educators are adjusting expectations for themselves and families as things unfold. While it’s true that this crisis has uncovered gross inequities in our communities of learners, perhaps it will be the impetus for future investigation and change. Certainly this is the time to reimagine schooling, another challenge for the gift of creativity.
Finally, the gift of the visual and performing arts in these difficult times has been a tremendous source of comfort for so many of us. From individuals and families performing music in their homes and sharing virtually, to symphony orchestras broadcasting from empty halls, to virtual services of worship, to virtual theater productions, to TV and internet subscriptions that enrich and provide respite, to virtual tours of museums, national parks, even Disney World rides, the arts have provided solace. In the words of Hans Christian Andersen, “where words fail music speaks.” The arts are speaking loudly and clearly during these times.
So, in this world of helpers using their gifts and talents in service to our world, our question to you is, “How are you using your gifts and talents as a helper?” Because, to quote Mr. Rogers once again, “All of us, at some time or other, need help. Whether we're giving or receiving help, each one of us has something valuable to bring to this world. That's one of the things that connects us as neighbors--in our own way, each one of us is a giver and a receiver."