Too Much Good

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

Even though I could read the story on line, I was compelled to buy the print copy of Friday’s New York Times because I was so drawn in by the large cover photo of a Canadian woman, smiling over a Syrian baby born to a refugee couple she is privately sponsoring in her country.

The article chronicled Canada’s story as one of the few countries that allow private sponsorship of refugees. It said there are more sponsors than approved refugees. What a problem. Too much good.

While the United States does not allow private sponsorship, it does provide for public sponsorship, and Louisville is one U.S. city well known for its excellent organizations that coordinate our local efforts, along with the individuals that support those groups.

Interestingly, this Sunday – two days after I bought the newspaper – my minister announced that our congregation will sponsor a Syrian family in coordination with Kentucky Refugee Ministries. The family will arrive in two-three weeks. One of our own families at St. Paul United Methodist Church is leading this effort, which will require outfitting an apartment, coordinating activities, driving the family of six to various appointments, and generally loving and supporting them during what might be a scary, unsettling transition.

This refugee family is going through the unimaginable. They have seen violence and hatred at the extreme.

I hope they  see what Mr. Rogers talked about: people reaching out to help them.  And seeing helpers will allow them to heal and live.

What I also hope is that they don’t hear too quickly the ugly political rhetoric that seeks to maximize our fears.

It is counterproductive to lash out at something. It is completely productive to figure out how you can help.

Our country’s helpers are stationed worldwide. I know many nations have called on our country for assistance, and we have been there.  Our public officials and private citizens have promoted progress for people everywhere.

I am reminded that teachers are the ultimate helpers.

This family new to Louisville has four children who will attend school here.  Louisville’s public school system has a wonderful program that helps immigrants and refugees get a good start in the U.S.

Teachers should be respected – publicly and privately – as the important, on-the-ground helpers they are. Teachers don’t choose the situations they see, they assess the situations in which they find themselves and address them moment by moment.

Think about teachers as the summer reaches its halfway mark and they begin planning the school year. Just last night a teacher friend was telling me about her research already underway to find music her choral students will like and that she will be back in her classroom within a few days to get it ready – well before her pay kicks in.

I hope that when this refugee family gets to our city and looks around, they see helpers. Teachers, religious leaders, neighbors, politicians and friends willing to help them live their lives in safety and security.

There can never be too many helpers, or too much good.

You can read the NYT story here, and view more photos of the Canadian helpers and those they are helping.


About Debbie Wesslund

I served on the Jefferson County Board of Education, Louisville, KY, from 2007-2014 and continue to be an advocate for public schools. There’s a high-level dialogue about public education that swings from positive to negative, with many who seek the spotlight voicing an inaccurate picture of our public schools. Words matter. They get lodged in our public perceptions, creating a narrative that doesn’t reflect the real story. There’s so much more to public education, and much worth applauding in Kentucky and across the country. The stakes are high: public education is the most serious public business we are about as a community, a state and a nation. We must continually renew our resolve to support public education. There’s always more promise in building something up, than in tearing it down.
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