In the days that followed the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a quote from Mister Rogers went viral.
“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,” Rogers said.
The words were comforting, and, for a moment, we were brought back to our childhood dens where we sat and watched “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, the world has taken Mr. Rogers’ advice to heart. But instead of looking for the helpers, people have become the helpers.
We are inundated with articles sparking debates about gun control, mental illness and school safety. Our inboxes and newsfeeds are flooded with the latest developments following the shooting. Policies have been discussed and analyzed, conspiracy theories have been created and speeches condemning the attacks have been made. Facebook statuses varying from prayers to outcries of anger to calls for action are everywhere, and Twitter feeds are full of pleas for change. These reactions are understandable — the Sandy Hook tragedy has struck a universal chord with people and is bound to trigger feelings of every kind.
It’s easy to get caught up in the anger, hurt and fear that many people feel, especially when we live in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with information. The news may seem inescapable, especially right after the shooting. There’s a universal battle cry: “We have to do something about this.” And we do. There’s a lot that needs to be done to ensure that a shooting of this magnitude never happens again. But to say that we have to do something without acknowledging the goodness that has come as a result of the shooting discredits the greatest thing that we’ve done so far: we have put aside our differences to show compassion to one another.
At a time when there seems to be no words for what happened, acts of kindness speak the loudest. In the days following the shooting, people showed overwhelming displays of empathy both big and small. Prayers were said, flags were flown at half-mast, basketball players observed moments of silence for the victims, and a children’s choir performed on Saturday Night Live in place of the show’s standard opening. JetBlue delivered farewell letters to one of the slain children and then offered free travel to the loved ones of the victims. When Ann Curry asked people to do 20 random acts of kindness for each of the children who died, people committed 26 acts of kindness for every person who died instead. Some surprised construction workers with coffee, while others bought 26 toys for needy children. And these are only the acts of kindness that have made the news.
But these acts of solidarity are not limited to the United States. Around the world, people have shown incredible feats of sympathy for the victims. In Pakistan, children held up a sign that said, “We feel your pain as you would feel our pain.” In Brazil, people placed crosses in the sand for each of the victims, while in Scotland, soccer players observed a moment of silence in solidarity. In Russia, people left flowers and teddy bears outside the US embassy.
If there’s one thing this tragedy has shown us, it’s that our strength lies in our kindness toward others. For every person who commits these terrible crimes, there are at least a hundred helpers. Despite the tragedy that we have seen, these acts of kindness show that it can still be a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Kelsey Trotta is an LSA junior.