04 November 2013

look for the helpers.

Ashley and I have been without cable or any kind of TV plan for the past 2.5 years, and it's been great. Many people would ask us what we possibly do in our free time without TV. As one dear friend put it, "I think you two just stare into each other's eyes."


Well yesterday, we once again got a taste of live TV. As Ashley said in her last post, we spent 24 hours in the Big Apple with a friend (before heading to Washington, D.C. for the week), who flipped on the TV during breakfast to catch any pre-race coverage of the New York City Marathon. The local news channel talked about the usual things: gunman running through an airport, hit-and-run death, string of abduction attempts, etc.

And that got me thinking: what's the deal with people?

Sometimes I wonder about us. People that is. Our human nature is a funny thing. I grapple with the notion that people are formed in God's image, yet at the same time people can be so destructive. What gives? Is this just hopelessly written into our genes?


willy wonka memes are always relevant.

Deep down, I think we know how we ought to live. I think we know how we ought to treat one another. I think we know that there is so much beauty and so much good in the world. Yet, it's still so hard for us to act how we ought. It's still so hard for us to see the good. Maybe I am projecting myself onto the masses. But maybe I am not.

Two cool people talk about this topic, albeit in different ways: St. Paul the Apostle and Mister (Fred) Rogers. Let's check-in with them (that is not a Facebook or Foursquare reference). 

St. Paul the Apostle
Cool person #1 is St. Paul the Apostle. When it comes to the New Testament, St. Paul is a pretty big deal. One of my favorite "books" of his to read  is the Epistle to the Romans. In the seventh chapter of this Epistle, St. Paul busts into a commentary on his own human condition.

"What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate...The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want...So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand...Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?" - Romans 7:15-24


When I read that passage, I picture St. Paul tearing his shirt open Superman style out of anger and frustration with his own self and seemingly disordered natural order. But most of all I am struck by how much his words resonate with me.

- How often have I known what I should do, yet acted to the contrary?
- How many times have I known that I should respond out of love, yet I acted out of anger?
- Or called to forgive, yet I held in contempt?

Oh how difficult it is to be human! But not all hope is lost. Just because we may tend towards one thing, does not mean it has to persist. For example, I tend to avoid eating vegetables when meat is present, but I can muster the strength to eat the vegetables if I really commit to it. The same can be true for other life struggles. If we're aware of our tendencies, then we can focus on working out the bad while keeping the good. For me, it's generally aided by conversations with Ashley and through prayer.

Point is, at times it can seem that our human condition - the way in which we are ordered - is up to no good. Yet, if we really look, there is beauty. There is love. There is hope. That brings us to cool person #2.

Mister Fred Rogers
Educator, minister, songwriter, author and television host. Fred Rogers accomplished quite a lot. His simplicity, gentleness and genuine care for children won audiences over. Plus he had a ton of wisdom to share. At least some of it he got from his mother. 

"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.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother's words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world." - Fred Rogers

look for the helpers

Again, maybe it's just me, but it often feels much easier to see or remember the bad or the negative than it is to see or remember the good or the positive. It's helpful to remember that goodness and beauty surround us. Just sometimes we have to look for it. We have to pay attention.

Mass media. Newspapers. People in my Facebook news feed. So often these spaces are filled with disaster, cruelty, and complaint. For some reason, these types of messages seem to cloud out the good leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth. Yet, if I really pay attention, I find the good. I find thisthis, and this. I find the helpers.

Deep down, I think we're called to be neighbors to one another. That is to say, we are called to show compassion. To love. To help. I hope and pray to be a neighbor to you. Won't you be my neighbor? (cue sappy musical number).

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