09
Oct
13

always look for the helpers

A few weeks ago, Americans paused to remember the 12th anniversary of the tragic attacks we have come to know as simply “9-11.”  My first born is now 13 years old.  Every year at this time, when I reflect on those terrible events, I take myself back to being a new father of barely a few months.

I distinctly recall the stark contrast between the horrors on television, and the peaceful rhythm of my son’s breath on my neck as he slept while I watched the atrocities unfold that morning.  Some moments in time are indelibly burned on your brain forever… this was one of those.

More recently, when the explosions occurred at the Boston Marathon, my middle son curiously asked about them.  You see from what he had already learned about 9-11 to date was understandably upsetting him.  This, as I knew would be, was inevitable.

My second born practically came into to this world with a concerned look on his face.  He is my planner, he tends to have the most angst about how things are going, or not going to work out.  He’s not one you can ever satisfy by saying, “Josh, don’t worry, it will work itself out.”  I have learned that statement tends to have the opposite effect on him.

He wants to know what the plan is – he quietly takes it all in.  His silence following any explanation is broken only with concise questions seeking clarification to the dilemma at hand.  He needs to know who’s calling the shots.  And he will darn sure let you know if he doesn’t think whoever that is, can’t follow through with those plans – yourself included.

Fear has a way of cutting through the conversational pleasantries when talking with him.  There’s no bull with this one, he’s going to let you know what is on his mind pretty quickly.  I have also found that absent leadership, he often carries those plans out himself.  An amazing and incredibly mature trait for an 11 year-old boy, I just love that about him.

Now all three of my sons attend a small school across the street from the University of Texas in Austin.  And, every time some wiseacre calls in a bomb threat, approximtely 225 Pre-K through 8th grade students get their world turned on their wet little ears, while teachers, caretakers and first-responders alike go into immediate action.jdeUSA

All threats are taken very seriously and given the unfortunate frequency of these crazy occurrences, well you can imagine the anxiety that builds up over time for kids who have no memories of their own when it comes to 9-11.  What they have seen are the pictures and videos afforded them in this day and age of technology.  You know this, If they want to know about something, they “google it.”  I have found this to be a fairly typical origin for a first impression for this generation and more and more, unfortunately, we are left to explain.

So, my son who worries, asked me this simple question on the morning of September 11, 2013,  “Dad, do you think that can happen again? Do you think it can happen here?”

My mind immediately began swimming, I could hear the voices of my father, mother, wife, grandparents, even my own voice as I was rifling through scores of things in my mind I have heard or read – searching.  It was like my brain was sifting through masses of audio files – processing.  That little hourglass or pinwheel was spinning on the monitor of my brain and just when I thought my son could actually see the empty in my eyes, my thoughts locked – I had something.

I’d like to believe the years of on-the-job training as a dad and maybe even as a kid myself as it turns out, all kicked in.  Because just as I knew this was going to have to be a very good answer, as this kid especially is never going to forget the words I’m about to say here – a familiar voice popped in my head.  I knew what my son was really asking.  And I found myself paraphrasing simple words borrowed from a childhood icon, Fred McFeely Rodgers.

“Son, when I was a little boy and I would see or hear scary things, I would always look for the helpers.  If something terrible ever happens, and I can’t be there for you, I want you to just remember that there will always be people there who will help you – always look for the helpers.”

I couldn’t lie, he’d see right through that.  I did ultimately share that I thought it was highly unlikely, but the simple truth that I didn’t share is sadly – yes I suppose it could.  But like any father, I wanted to share something positive, something comforting.  I pray everyday the he would never have to rely on that advice, but God-forbid if he did – I want the first thing that goes through his mind to be that of the multitude of first-responders we have in this world.

MrRogersBefore Mr. Rodgers was a famous television show host he served his community as an ordained Presbyterian minister. That would come to no surprise to the millions of kids he imparted his wisdom on every morning for so many years – yours truly included.

He was so respected that he once had his car stolen in his own hometown, and when the news broke – the thieves returned it to the exact spot it was taken from  – with a note of apology.

Every September 11,  we all pause and return to that spot we were when we learned of the terrible events of that day.  Not a day goes by that we don’t have an army of first responders ready to jump in at a moments notice to remove innocent bystanders from harms way, or to apply life-giving first aid.  Often at the risk of their own safety.

So as you reflect on all the souls lost on that fateful day, when you utter the words “we remember” to yourself in the shower or on the way to work or wherever you find a quiet moment in your day to reflect – also remember the helpers. Wherever there is something bad happening, always look for the helpers.


1 Response to “always look for the helpers”


  1. May 30, 2014 at 1:01 am

    Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds
    me of my previous room mate! He always kept chatting about this.
    I will forward this write-up to him. Fairly certain he
    will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!


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