In the wake of the tragic events in Boston, I reencountered a quotation from Fred Rogers that has become a staple on Facebook whenever tragedy strikes. Fred Rogers was very good working with children and had a long standing Television show and he once 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.” 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.”
I believe that this is great advice for children, and The Fred Rogers Company has an excellent page dedicated to helping parents guide their children through processing tragedy. But I am growing in my conviction that this advice is only somewhat helpful for full grown adults. What I suspect that many who use this quote on Facebook actually mean to convey, is that humanity is basically good. We are a culture quick to dismiss tragedy, evil, sin, and death as the exception. “Look for the Helpers,” rather than being a tool to help the children, is more a quote to comfort juvenile adults who cannot face the reality that evil truly does reside within humanity. It is a way of diverting our attention from those looters who stole Boston Marathon jackets and medals in the chaos that ensued after the explosions.
Jesus, when confronted by tragedy in Luke 13:1-5 did not encourage full grown adults to “look for the helpers,” but he told them to use the tragedy as an opportunity to reflect on their own mortality. He said in essence, when you see tragedy, and even tragedy caused by evil, consider your own evil heart and repent before God. All of us like to think of ourselves as helpers, and then our spouse makes us angry and we take a break from being helpers. Many of us consider ourselves helpers, and then we get cut off in traffic.
I really fear that we as a nation have become soft to seeing the world as it truly is. We try to protect ourselves in a juvenile way from every vibe of negativity and evil. But not every lesson is learned by “looking for the helpers.” Some of the hardest, but best lessons are to look at the tragedies for what they are: real people in a fallen world acting wickedly. And the best response according to Jesus is to take stock of our own lives in the face of real tragedy.