I liked “Mister Rogers” as well as most people did, but I have to admit to a certain befuddlement over the sudden and sweeping Internet embrace of a quotation from him. It’s been all over social media since the Boston Marathon bombing: “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.’ ”
Fred Rogers’ mother’s gentle homily carries truth; generations later, there are always people who are helping. The quick and brave response of emergency personnel and bystanders to Monday's carnage is an encouraging reminder that the good guys way outnumber the bad ones.
But the bad guys still cause terrible pain from time to time, and though we often can limit the damage by being helpers and donors, I can’t help wondering whether people really find this quotation comforting, a bulwark against horrible acts by despicable people who would attack the innocent and the vulnerable. That remains a frightening prospect, fear that might be best combated by our refusal to let it cow us, let it keep us from joining together in public places to celebrate great events -- or mourn sad ones.
Of course we should honor those who come to the aid of others in the most terrible of circumstances. But it’s hard to see how even their honorable actions erase or even ease the fact that frightening things do happen and that there are monsters among us. It’s not something we can self-soothe ourselves out of feeling with Pollyannaish reminders that there are very good people among us -- and perhaps that's something we shouldn't even try to do.