Look to the helpers

The weekly editorial for the 100 Mile Free Press

Look to the helpers

“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.”

It’s a quote from Mr. Rogers that I find helpful to remember when waking up in a world that seems so much scarier than yesterday.

People often bemoan social media or politicians’ responses to disasters, an offering of “thoughts and prayers” with little concrete but best wishes behind them.

And yet we still do it. We do send our thoughts and prayers to people affected, to those who lost loved ones, to the cities and people for whom recovery is yet a far road ahead of them.

When disasters or attacks happen on a mass scale, we often feel so helpless. It feels as though the world is terrible. That people are terrible. That there isn’t space to continue to hope.

That’s where the helpers pour in.

Insofar as there is media report after media report about the gunman in Las Vegas, or people fleeing gunshots in a mass panic, there are stories of people who kept their heads, who made sure people got away safely, who hid people fleeing violence in their basement or lobby. Of people who checked in with those they didn’t know to make sure they were okay and safe. Of people lining up to donate blood.

During Hurricane Harvey, boat owner after boat owner lined up to return to Houston to help evacuate those stranded by flood waters.

When a lone gunman shot Nathan Cirillo at the war monument in Ottawa in 2014, bystanders stepped up to perform CPR to try and save the soldier’s life, even while the gunman moved towards Parliament Hill.

These are only a few examples of ordinary people stepping up in extraordinary circumstances.

When the Cariboo faced wildfires this summer, person after person offered support and aid to those of us affected.

Fort McMurray sent food and supplies. Locals set up food banks. Restaurants served free meals. Friends and family across the province opened their doors to evacuees. Gas stations handed out cases of water. Ranchers hauled out livestock and horses. Volunteers offered months of their time to help people find food, water and shelter. Friends helped evacuate pets, wedding dresses, and pictures for those stranded because of roadblocks. Donations came from across the country. Organizations set up shelters for pets and people.

I evacuated with the mass exodus of people from Williams Lake. For me, my hero was the woman in the gas station in Barriere who stayed open through the night for people travelling down the Little Fort Hill and who, when I went to pay for a tea at 2 a.m., told me it was on the house.

It was something that simple that brought me to grateful tears.

Humanity shines through when the lights seem darkest.