Today we were watching Freebirds, a movie about a pair of turkeys who travel back in time to eradicate Thanksgiving. My almost-two-year-old was captivated; he’s really into bird movies. Anyway, *spoiler alert* at the end of the film a tribe of early turkeys from the 1600s mourn the loss of their great leader by flapping their wings forward in a circular motion to create a swirling tribute of scattered feathers, spiraling up into the air. It’s a moving moment in the film and I looked down at my sweet son and saw that he was emulating their actions with his arms, slowly windmilling in a beautiful, almost spiritual show of empathy.
I was moved. It dawned on me that I thought of him as a baby still, incapable of understanding this subtle show of sadness and love. It’s true, his day-to-day temperament veers sharply from terrible toddler displays of frustration to sheer unadulterated joy, but this…this was something else.
Suddenly I realized that our children are far more sensitive than we know (probably because we’ve become relatively insensitive in our ‘old age’) and they can understand and internalize far more than we imagine.
Tragedy at the Pulse Nightclub
I’d been offline all day when the shooter opened fire on the people at Pulse Nightclub. My phone had died and we were out at a family event, so it was a shock to come home and read that, once again, love had lost a great battle.
This tragic day ended in the confirmed deaths of 49 human beings and more injured. A massacre of people singled out for death for no good reason, each of whom was once somebody’s child. Their lives were made up of thousands of minutes, of sweet kisses with loved ones, of moments of frustration and sheer joy—moments of sadness and love.
Talking to Kids about Tragedy
So what do we tell our darling children now? The day after something like that happens. How do we explain that such great terror can come at the hand of another human, someone who could have been a neighbour and not an obvious villain? Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood always comes to mind at times like these. He said, “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.””
Look for the Helpers
Look for Helpers. It comforts me, sure, but I don’t entirely understand what it means. On one hand it seems to point to the services that are set up in society to ‘help’ when things go wrong. It points to the ‘firemen’ who put their lives at great risk to save us when planes fly into buildings with the intent of causing devastating harm. But doesn’t this quote also refer to us, the ‘helpers’ across the globe who are gutted when this type of thing happens and dream of ways to change the world? Doesn’t it speak to our efforts to somehow hold each other up through sharing our horror with each other across numerous public forums like this one? And aren’t we also helpers when we hold our babies close and tell them that these acts are the terrible exceptions, and that in spite of (and sometimes because of) great tragedy, love will always win?
So what do we do then—as helpers. How do we help love win? Is a post or share on social media our only outlet? The situation seems so bleak, the hole so deep, and at the end of the day, we’re just families, struggling to make nutritious meals and keep our kids from wearing their pyjamas to school. Who will step up to the plate to make the difference?
Support Companies that are Helpers
And that’s when corporations, both big and small, stand by us and put their money where their mouth is to help meet the mark. They don’t have to, you know. They are companies that exist to provide products and services to the public in exchange for money. Sure, some of them go the extra mile in these crazy times for street cred, but the smart ones really get that if they don’t protect the communities they serve, there won’t be communities left to serve. They’re the helpers too, so please seek them out.