After Paris, Look for 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.” — Mister Rogers

Again.

The feeling of anxious dread mixed with a horrible need to know.

It starts with a message from someone telling you something has happened, and a link the news story. This time it was my son who sent me a message at 1am, which I only saw when I noticed my phone blinking at 3am.

Paris under attack.

Heart sinking. Not again.

By the next morning it’s the only topic in the news and on social media. People are changing their profile pictures in support, or in anger, or conversely criticising those who do. Some write out in detail their opinion on why this happened, who is to blame, what needs to change.

Virtual arguments flare up in comment-form under people’s posts. I feel the anger wafting out from facebook like the computer is on fire.

Stop. Some people are in mourning today. Some people didn’t make it home last night.

As a mom, my first thought in moments like this is for the moms who were given the bad news that their child is dead. And the moms who are panicking, sending out endless messages searching for their child who hasn’t come home yet…

Our social media, the very one we cling to when we look for information, is partly to blame for our overwhelming feelings of personal tragedy – we live vicariously through the people actually present on the scene.

And yet, overwhelmingly, in the face of terrorism, people are not terrorized. Shocked, saddened, horrified, outraged, yes.

Angry. Worried.

Defiant. Resistant.

Because, ultimately, there will always be more good guys than bad guys.

Remember Boston? The horrific scenes of the marathon, the chilling tales of people recounting their experiences that day?

On some of those photos, you can see people running TO the scene.

To help.

I was in London in 2005, one day after 7/7, when 56 people died and over 700 were injured by bombs on the underground and a bus. The mood of the city was electric and tense, the sun kept trying to break through the heavy steel clouds, but gloom pushed down on us. People were in shock, people were scared. But also… People were kind.  Everyone seemed to be going out of their way to show kindness and patience to others. People held doors, waited patiently instead of grumping, said thank you, let others cut ahead in line, smiled at each other, made eye contact. There seemed to be a subconscious current of niceness having struck the city. Engaging in small acts of care towards other strangers was therapeutic.

Friday night in Paris one of the hashtags that quickly went viral was #porteouverte. Because of the sudden police-imposed curfew, many found themselves in the city, far from their home or hotel, and unable to get back.

#Portesouvertes

In an amazing show of solidarity, the people of Paris opened their doors to anyone needing shelter. Hundreds of connections were made online between people needing shelter and those opening their doors to them. Taxis also turned off their meters to help out when the public transit was shut down.

It was a moment of light in a night of darkness.

Let’s hold onto that.

There will always be more good guys than bad.

One thought on “After Paris, Look for the Helpers

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