When Mr. Rogers was a boy and terrible things would happen around the world, his mom would tell him to look for the helpers. Instead of focusing on the destruction, she encouraged him to look for the good — for those people who were moving forward in kindness.
Fred Rogers took that message with him into adulthood where he shared it with the world during his nearly 40 years as our favorite friend in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.
He hung up his sweater for the final time in 2001, but his message lives on. Thank goodness, because we might need it now more than ever.
The news is filled with devastation in Texas. First we hear of the people who have lost their lives. Then we are told of those who abandoned their pets or looted their neighbor’s last possessions.
But there is another side of the story. Countless people are organizing fundraisers, from the minuscule to the mammoth; from my son’s football team in Ohio to major retailers matching donations across the nation. Every effort counts. Each one helps us see the helpers.
One of my favorite stories to come out of this terrible time is from a teacher. Hurricane-evacuated kids can’t go to school, and even once the water leaves the homes and buildings, it could be a while before any sort of normal routine returns to their lives.
According to Education Week, Kathryn Butler Mills, a second grade teacher at WoodCreek Elementary in Katy, Texas, was called to action after seeing her students in social media posts taking shelter in pantries and bathrooms and even under staircases.
She launched the Hurricane Harvey Book Club, a Facebook group where students can post videos of themselves reading. It started with 70 invites to Mills’ students but has grown exponentially in the past two weeks. As of publication, the private group has more than 53,000 members. In the time it took me to write this article, the group gained 200 new participants.
Along with her students reading their favorite books aloud, the group now includes kids from across the country as well as teachers, authors and celebrities.
WoodCreek Elementary School’s Principal, Mr. Mosher, talked to students in his YouTube vlog about Mills’ reading project. Wearing a brown t-shirt and sitting on the floor of what looks to be a home office, he explains how “Mama Mills” is getting lots of national media attention and that, “the bit of light that has shined into homes has been just awesome.” He then goes on to read a book that his mom used to read to him called, “Tikki Tikki Tembo.”
I wonder if Mr. Rogers’ mom used to read to him. I’m certain she did. Books have a way of conveying life lessons that stick.
Whether we are facing high waters literally or figuratively, I think we can all take a lesson from Mr. Rogers, his mom, and the people working so hard to relieve the hurt in Texas. Let’s look for the helpers. That’s where we’ll find the kindness.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.