Look for the helpers
One blistery winter day, I was leaving a professional building after a meeting and happened to hear soft crying coming from shrubbery lining the busy highway.
When I looked closer I saw a small girl trembling under the bushes.
I noticed the little girl didn’t have her coat zipped. She had no gloves or hat and her nose was running.
When I asked her what was wrong, she told me she had just gotten off the school bus but there was no grown up there to pick her up.
The momma bear in me wanted to explode at the thought that a child had been left in such a dangerous spot with no protection. I wanted to wrap my arms around her and whisk her to safety. But I had to be calm.
It was obvious she was terrified and being found out in her hiding spot did not help. So, from a distance, I told her I would like to be her helper. I told her if she would allow me I would take her into the warm building I had just left and call other helpers to find her mother.
My heart felt sick as I saw the realization in her eyes that she was going to have make a decision: would she remain in the safety of her hideout or would she trust me, a stranger?
Would I really be a helper or would I overpower her and cause her more pain and fear?
At that, I told her she did not have to approach me, but I would call for help from my phone.
With her watching my every move, I dialed the school transportation department and reported the situation.
My call was transferred from one department to another until, finally, I was speaking to the director of transportation. My patience was gone by the time I told the man on the phone of the situation. I began to raise my voice and demand he tell me how something like this could possibly happen to one so defenseless.
The director was extremely apologetic for the mistake that had been made by the bus driver and promised that he would personally drive to pick up the child and get her to her family.
As we waited, the frightened child must have decided it was worth the risk to trust me. She walked over to me hesitantly and allowed me to zip her coat. Though getting into my warm car seemed to be too much for her, she allowed me to wrap an extra coat around her shoulders.
When the transportation director finally arrived, I positioned my body between the child and him. I demanded to see his identification and had him wait while I wrote the license number of his car on my pad. When I helped the exhausted, frightened child in the back seat of his car and buckled her seat belt, she whispered as she hugged me, “I knew you were a helper.”
This time, the outcome was positive. However, it was unsettling to think of how helpless this child was. What if I hadn’t been a ‘helper?’
She had no defense against me and in a world that threatens harm for the least of these she easily could have been victimized. And yet, I was there — at the right place at the right time.
Fred Rogers once said, “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.’ If you look for the helpers, you will always know there is hope.”
Will you determine to be a helper? Will you keep alert to the situations around you and be the hope for those in need, whether it be small children, senior citizens or the stranger in harms’ way?
Nora Swango Stanger, a Lawrence County native and Appalachian outreach coordinator for Sinclair Community College, can be reached at email@example.com.