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In Times of Tragedy — How Do We Cope?

While I try to keep up with current events in the United States and the world, I am the first to admit I often stay away from the news — especially these days. If I pay too much attention to our country’s problems and issues, it affects me to the point where I can’t function well. And then what good am I to anybody? So I have chosen to pay attention to the news — just enough to be informed, but not enough to interfere with living a good, productive life.

But lately I find myself glued to the television news reports about the disaster in Texas. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life — flooding beyond belief — with so many people displaced and in need of help. Devastation on so many levels.

And yet, I can’t look away. While I found I couldn’t even look at the recent graphic scenes of the hate and violence in Charlottesville, I’ve had the opposite reaction to the disaster in Texas. Why? Because Charlottesville depicts the absolute worst side of human nature, and what’s happening in Texas illustrates the best. I am humbled and amazed at the strength and courage of all the people out there who are willingly putting themselves in harm’s way for the sole purpose of helping others.

Firefighters, police, medical professionals of all levels, and the Coast Guard are working tirelessly to save lives. They are all heroes. What I find most inspiring, however, is the fact that “everyday people” are out there in their trucks, boats, and Jet Skis when they don’t have to be; they are posting their phone numbers on Facebook so those who need help can reach them. They are risking their lives to help men, women, children, the elderly, those who are ill, and those who have disabilities. Nobody is comparing political views, asking individuals if they suffer from mental illness, or only saving “their kind.” It’s simply people helping people in every way possible, and it is heartening to see.

This is what I choose to focus on. In fact, even before Hurricane Harvey arrived in Texas, my family was discussing our country’s current issues, the most recent being the horrific riots and attack in Charlottesville, and I suggested they take the advice of an old “friend” of theirs — Fred Rogers.

Just to be clear — my children are not young. They are 32, 28 and 24. But like so many of us, they are upset and troubled over what’s happening in our country and in our world. How could they not be? So how do we help them, indeed how do we help ourselves, cope?

Mr. Rogers advice? Always look for the helpers. He says:

“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.”

It is not hard to find the helpers when it comes to the tragedy in Texas, or many of the recent upsetting events in our country. All of us, young and old, can help others in various ways, and together we can choose to exemplify the best traits of humanity. An added bonus is that in the process of helping others, we almost always help ourselves as well.

Source: psychcenteral