Always Look for the Helpers

“My mother used to say, whenever there would be a real catastrophe that was in the movies or on the air, she would say: ‘Always look for the helpers, there will always be helpers.’ … Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.” Mr. Rogers

While I have very fond memories of watching Mr. Rogers as a child, I don’t recall when I originally came across these words of his. Maybe it was during 9/11. I remember standing at the window of my 8th Grade classroom, flanked by two of my students. The kids in the classroom were all processing what was happening in different ways; some were sitting quietly at their desks and some were carrying on as if it were a regular day. (I still recall a particularly humorous child who provided us all with comic relief.)

The two with me reacted differently: one was quiet and anxious and the other was trying to hold back helpless tears and tightened fists. Teachers were never prepared for this – no one was — so I did what I thought seemed right. I stood in silence with them for a bit, walked around and checked in on the quiet ones, chattered along with the others. To this day, I cannot be sure I did the right thing, but I do hope that I held that space for them.

Maybe this quote surfaced during Super Storm Sandy; now I was suddenly without the shelter of my own home. How was I going to hold this space again, for my young child and for my junior high kids, when I was feeling those tears, that rage uncertainty? I had a choice to make. I shared those hard feelings when I needed to during conversations with my family and my close friends. My husband and I counted blessings, we kept close to routine, and we chose to reframe this as a temporary “adventure.” This was a delight to my preschooler and assured my students that we were still good to go. You know what? We had fewer of those hard feelings and more of those blessings!

During this difficult time, acknowledge yourself. Find a person with whom you hold space. Find gratitude for what is working. Do something good for yourself. Reframe this time for your children. Connect. Allow. Laugh.

You’re a helper now.

-Cary Anne Fitzgerald, Parent Community Outreach Coordinator

Thanks to Queens North Regional Coordinator Kristin Malone for sharing this resource on talking to children about Covid-19.