I want to say thank you for our guest blogger today! Sometimes I feel hampered by the need to keep this blog professional and educational rather than providing my own opinions on things. The neutral(ish) stance is a necessity for a therapist. That being said, there is a special connection that can come from hearing from others who have had their own struggles and experiences and learn that we aren't alone. The human connection exists even at times when the world seems incomprehensible or scary and perhaps our mind more so.
With that being said- please read and I hope you find these posts as helpful and interesting as I have!
Glad to be here to have a space to practice my writing and share some thoughts! I am a graduate student right now and maybe that means I am in full on researcher mode and lost in some ideal world of academia that honestly doesn't always match up with what people experience in the regular world.
Today worked out pretty well because I woke up today to read an article on this quote of Mr. Rogers about helpers that got me thinking. It is an opinion article so I suppose it achieved its purpose- to make people think but I admit that it angered me too.
You can read the article here, "The Fetishization of Mr. Rogers's 'Look for the Helpers'"
One thing I do support in the article is that we meme ourselves waaay to much. Take a look at anyone's social media or a peek at their email or text messages and you are probably going to see a meme.
In the interests of transparency, I did grow up on Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and went through the rapt adoration of a 5 year old, to a contemptuous 10 year old, to an adoring 17 year and beyond. In my adulthood, I appreciate (re-appreciate) the kindness and sincerity of a man who was hopeful, kind, caring, and treated people, young and old, of all races, cultures, and with any differences physical, mental, or otherwise, with respect and caring. I can't claim to know if Mr. Rogers was always this paragon of virtue that I believe him to be and I'm sure he wasn't! He was, after all, a public figure, and we have a way of making public figures into what we want them to be and sometimes forget that ultimately, they are just...well, not like us, they are us, with good days, bad days, some nice thoughts and some not so nice thoughts.
In grad school, we learn a lot about research and how to read things critically. Even in this opinion piece (mine or the Atlantic I guess!), we are cautioned against making assumptions. "What do you read, what do you know" is something a professor of mine said. If you read, "the world is round", then what you read is "the world is round" not "the world is round and people have always believed that and always will". Well, I read "the world is round" and I accept the evidence "the world is round" but some people will argue that saying it is "round" perpetuates a myth and that the world is really oblong. Others will argue that the earth is flat and they are serious (it is in their FAQ linked here). So my addition to "the world is round", that this is a universally accepted statement and it is what all modern society believes, that is wrong. I added that part in my mind and yet all I read is "the world is round". That is kind of a weird way to try and explain how to read research critically but I hope gives some kind of explanation.
t’s a powerful notion for kids, especially very young ones. Fred Rogers Productions maintains a resource for parents on talking to children about tragic events that explains why. Children are small and fragile. They rely on adults for almost everything, from daily care to emergency rescue. “Look for the helpers” is a tactic that diverts a child’s distress toward safety.
Kudos to the author for noting that the advice was "never meant to be used alone". Most memes and quotes are taken out of context in some way or other. The quote above for example, it is one small piece of the article and should be contextualized as part of the whole (so here's a link to it again!)
Children are small and fragile.
Wow, um, I don't know what kids this author is talking about but I don't think I have ever actually met a fragile child. Maybe I understand the word "fragile" differently. To me, that suggests that children are easily broken, easily frightening, even a hint of a suggestion that kids are weak.
Besides the fact that ANYONE has to be pretty darn strong to survive at ANY time during Earth's long history...kids are incredibly resilient and incredibly strong.
Check out this article:
Why are some people able to become happy, well-adjusted adults even after growing up with violence or neglect? Their life stories – from 1950s Hawaii to the orphanages of Romania – could provide answers that will help more children to thrive. By Lucy Maddox.
Here's a research, evidence based book by Goldstein and Brooks- Handbook of Resilience in Children.
Recognize any of these names? Anne Frank. Ryan White. Malala Yousafzai. Jazz Jennings. Ruby Bridges. Alfonso Calderon.
A Holocaust victim, an early AIDS activist, a child who survived and won a NOBEL PEACE prize, a school shooting survivor and advocate for gun control, a pioneer in gender identity, a pioneer in school integration and all- ALL children. Children who survived horrific circumstances. What about the Kennedy family? Rich, well known, and tragedy after tragedy- the kids all exposed to it. What about ANY genocide survivors? Jewish, Rwanda, Armenia....and too many more to count. What about kids who are in abusive households? Who have survived sexual abuse? Who have survived bullying? Foster care? Neglect? Violence? Poverty? I could go on and on but you don't need a Wikipedia entry to be a survivor of horrific circumstances. and THRIVE. Probably half the people in the grocery store with you at any given times could tell you a childhood tale that would leave you counting your blessings....even if you also struggled to survive...and here they are, in the grocery store, shopping, raising kids, working, playing, dreaming, living. Tell me those kids were fragile. I guess I just don't see how someone can be called "small and fragile" and still survive and thrive.
Ironically, when adults cite “Look for the helpers,” they are saying something tragic, not hopeful: Grown-ups now feel so disenfranchised that they implicitly self-identify as young children.
The next chunk of the article builds on the above quote. Here is an instance of an author using their own opinion as widespread fact, "tragic not hopeful" and "self-identify as young children". I do not identify as a child and I don't feel particularly disenfranchised either. I'm an adult. I get it. And I am not saying anything that I feel is tragic. I suppose the whole point of my post here is to say what I think and believe when I read, hear, or share that Mr. Rogers quote.
When I turn on the news, increasingly rare for me these days, a big part of the broadcast is all of the bad stuff going on. Yes, its news but its 30 minutes of negativity shooting in my direction. Personally, I struggle with that. The last few minutes is usually some kind of fluffy piece about a dog show or a kid with a lemonade stand. Maybe something to "ooo" and "ah" about before getting back on with our day? Its not enough for me to purge the horrible feelings I have from the first part of the newscast.
When I read the Mr. Rogers quote, when I say it, when I hear it- it reminds me that even if we don't hear about it, for every bad thing that happens, there are people coming in to help, advocate, change, grow....but we don't always hear about it. THAT'S when I feel disenfranchised or lost, when I hear about something awful and don't hear about the people rushing to help.
So with due respect to the author of that article, I submit that is the author's opinion, not fact. And I respect that people can see things and understand things differently. For me, I have to know, I have to believe, that there are good people out there, people with hope, people who care, people who are strong and smart and people, people doing things that make the world worth fighting for and worth living in. The helpers.
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