Amen, Amen, Amen

An exploration of how obsessive-compulsive disorder can be a gift

The Helpers During Tragedy

People I think are making a huge difference as we heal from our loss.

Finding the helpers

 

There’s a beautiful quote from Mr. Rogers that’s been floating around the Internet since the horrible events in Newtown, Connecticut last week.

“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.”

Maura Judkis wrote a moving piece for the Washington Post about how and why this quote and its accompanying photo went viral so quickly. (link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/arts-post/post/mister-rogers-and-newtown-quote-and-image-goes-viral/2012/12/17/a462f598-485c-11e2-820e-17eefac2f939_blog.html)

The image of Mr. Rogers pulling us out of this national tragedy is soothing in so many ways. He was always my hero and guide. Kicking off his outside shoes to show me what fun and wild adventure was right under my nose if I just sang along and listened to Henrietta Pussycat.

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I want to honor some of the helpers who I’ve seen make an incredible impact in the past week. These people have spoken out about important, ugly truths. The problem is real. Violence is depicted in video games, young adult novels, movies and even commercials. Guns are sold without background checks and mental illnesses are mistreated. We have a lot of work ahead of us.

 

Amy Davidson, Adam Gopnik, Jeffrey Toobin, Jen Doll: These journalists have written such incisive pieces about the tragedy, the aftershocks, and the details of what kind of gun control legislation needs to be pushed through Congress (and the obstacles).

Barack Obama, Joe Biden, Dianne Feinstein, Michael Bloomberg: Government officials who have been vociferous advocates for gun control.

Matthew Quick, David O. Russell: Authors of the novel and screenplay, Silver Linings Playbook. I rarely recommend movies to other people, but I think this screenplay is so well-written and humanizes mental illness in a lovely, respectful way. Now, more than ever, it feels imperative to openly discuss and understand mental illness.

Rachel Maddow: MSNBC reporter who not only covered the actual event solemnly and thoughtfully, but also continues to speak about how gun control is possible and how even members of the NRA are willing to concede to some higher levels of intervention in gun ownership.

Park Slope Parents (in Brooklyn, New York): Led by Susan Fox, this collective of concerned parents and community leaders organized a candlelight vigil and posted helpful tips for parents as they approach this subject matter with their children.

And of course, the guidance counselors, principals and teachers across the nation: These are the heroes on the frontlines - showing up for class despite their own fears; keeping their doors open to help students learn not only multiplication, but human strength.

The list above is by no means complete – they’re just the ones who’ve touched me personally during this week of intense grief. They are the kind of helpers I wish to be.

And thank you dear reader. For reading this. For caring. For being part of the healing process.

 

Abby Sher is a writer and performer in Brooklyn, New York, and the author of Amen, Amen, Amen: Memoir of a Girl Who Couldn't Stop Praying.

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