Many years ago, when Mr. Rogers was a young boy, his mother said something to him (more than once) that he remembered and put into practice for the rest of his life. Whenever they saw some type of disaster, or a troubled situation on TV or in real life, she would say, “Look for the helpers. There will always be someone helping.” Thinking of, and looking for, those helpers calmed his fears because he was reminded that there were always people who cared and who tried to help.
Today we are in the midst of a disaster that threatens us beyond anything most of us have ever experienced. It’s scary enough to face the possibilities of mass deaths (even the loss of 1% of our population is 3.3 million people), but it’s even harder to think about people we know and love dying. We don’t know what the future holds, and that’s part of the problem. We can imagine anything, and we usually do, but we don’t know anything. That’s hard to deal with. Whatever are we to do?
“Look for the helpers. There will always be helpers.” That’s good advice for us right now.
When we look we can always see people who are fearful, hurting and uncertain. In seeing them, also look around the edges of the picture and you will find people rushing to help. Those helpers can be us.
Matthew 25 is a wonderful, challenging and difficult passage that I recommend you read again. It tells of people who didn’t prepare, of others who used their talents (or not) for the good of their master, and then the story of those who did or did not care for their king. It’s this last story that I think is particularly appropriate in our situation today.
In that parable the king, (who is the Son of Man, Jesus’ favorite description of himself), sits on his throne and judges the people. Some he says helped him when he had nothing. They reply they never remember helping him, but the king says, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.” That reminds us not only that we are the hands and feet and heart of Christ in our world but that those who are in need are somehow also Christ calling out to us through their need. The old hymn goes, “I’d stay in the garden with him, though the night around me be falling, but he bids me go; through the voice of woe, his voice to me is calling.” Then there’s the rest of the parable. I’ll leave that to you to read the part telling of what happened to those who didn’t care for their brothers and sisters.
We have the opportunity to be among that society of helpers.
Sometimes we can go out and help, and sometimes we stay at home and help. We can call and listen to those who are isolated, and we can pray for those who are lonely. Sometimes we can go out, tapping on windows and waving hello, and sometimes we can go out, running errands, delivering food, and whatever needs to be done. Sometimes we can help other people by letting them help us (often something that is very hard for us to do). Anything we do to help is a bigger help than what we can understand. Mr. Rogers thought of those helpers he looked for as his heroes. Be one of those heroes who help others’ fears subside!
Make a list today of things you can do, today and tomorrow. I especially ask you to pray for the pastors of our congregations and the chaplains of our hospitals and presbytery. They are seeking to be helpers where God has planted them, and that is a very high and difficult calling. Help them in any way that you can!