Look for the Helpers

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“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

 

Andrew White helps a neighbor down a street after rescuing her from her home in the upscale River Oaks neighborhood after it was inundated with flooding from Hurricane Harvey. SCOTT OLSON/GETTY IMAGES

 

My husband, children and I recently moved from Seattle to Dallas. It’s been an exciting transition for all of us and we’ve enjoyed learning about the culture of our new state of Texas. That said, our family and friends on the West Coast have inundated us with check-ins to be sure we’re safe during Hurricane Harvey. Located 400 miles from the devastation, we’re clear of the storm, but feel deeply for all those affected by this historic and tragic event.

 

Even though we are far from the flooding, the effects seem to be happening all around us. In Target yesterday, the woman in line with us had left Houston that morning at 3 a.m. to escape the rising waters in her apartment building. The gentleman who checked us out was from Houston and has many family members there now. He said he was grateful to be distracted at work because otherwise he didn’t know how he would get through the day. More and more shelters are being created in the Dallas area around us, and even AirBnB is jumping in to help by waiving all service fees for those willing to house evacuees.

 

 

What’s really caught my eye from all the news stories—and has been quite a juxtaposition to the other news stories as of late—has been the focus of the true heroes during the storm: neighbors helping neighbors. The state put out a call for anyone with a boat to go help rescue community members, and with that, the #CajunNavy from neighboring Louisiana was deployed. So many Texans helped their neighbors during Hurricane Katrina, that now Louisiana wants to repay the favor—and they are showing up in droves.

 

“I can’t look at somebody knowing that I have a perfect boat in my driveway to be doing this and to just sit at home,” said Jordy Bloodsworth, a Baton Rouge member of the Cajun Navy who flooded after Hurricane Katrina when he lived in Chalmette. “I have every resource within 100 feet of me to help.”

 

One mother, Tracie Allen, spent much of her weekend dispatching the “Cajun Navy” from outside New Orleans, a role she found herself in a year ago as she frantically tried to find help for her own kids who were stranded and flooded in Baton Rouge. “There’s somebody else’ kids who need it (now),” said Allen.

“When we live a life of community, something greater in all of us binds us together for the greater good.”  

 

Residents are rescued from their homes surrounded by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

 

My own life was changed by the help of my neighbors. Both of my parents were extremely sick during the majority of my childhood, and what really made all the difference were the families that lived on our street*. Once, when the grocery level in our house was quite low and I really wanted to make some potato leek soup (still comforts me today), I vividly remember walking to four neighbors’ houses—borrowing an onion from one, butter from another, cream from the third and chicken broth from the fourth. I happily carried it all home and my little sister and I whipped up a delicious dinner.

 

As corny as it sounds, I’ve never been able to make that soup taste as good it to me as it did that day (and I’ve certainly tried**.) It was the culmination of all the support around me in one steaming pot. And I guarantee that it made my neighbors feel good as well to contribute to that ten year old little girl. Effortless for them—high impact for me.

 

Because of that experience (and hundreds of other times our neighbors helped our family), I feel called to give back to my own community in the same way. Nothing makes me happier than giving a kiddo a ride home from school, having someone over for a playdate while their parents finish up a late workday, or cooking kids a great meal with the abundance of food I am fortunate enough to have in my refrigerator.

 

So when the opportunity came a little over a year ago to work for Pogo, it really felt like a full circle moment. The ability to help families connect with their neighbors and their community members for support via the Pogo Rides app (in an easy and at their fingertips way) was a dream come true.

 

Since then we’ve surveyed hundreds and hundreds of parents, and the response to one question has always been the same.

 

“If you knew that one of your neighbors needed a ride for their child and you had an extra seat in your car, would you be willing to offer them a ride?”

 

“Of course!” “Absolutely” “Yes! It’s just hard to know who needs the help.”

 

Well, that’s our mission—to make it easy for parents in need to look around and find the helpers. And make it really easy for parents to help out when they can.  I guarantee you’ll fall on both sides of the equation at some point, and by giving back you’re certain to have a greater feeling of warmth than even a steaming cup of soup can provide.

 

And if you think giving a ride to a child doesn’t make a big difference, you’re wrong. Last summer I talked to an elementary school principal who desperately wanted to use Pogo. She told me that there was a new single parent who was having surgery and wouldn’t be able to drive her kindergartener to school. The child lived too close to take the school bus, but too far to walk by herself. The mother called the principal to ask for the name of a family that lived nearby them to help, but due to FERPA constraints,  the principal was unable to provide that information. They didn’t even have a school directory to point her towards. The end result? The mother kept her child home from school for the entire week. While this sounds like an extreme example, it proves that a simple connection made between two families can have a huge impact.

 

As for me, I’ll pick up my kids after school today and we’ll drop off food and supplies to our new neighbors at one of the nearby Harvey shelters they’ve set up in Dallas. For information on how you can easily help from afar, visit Texas Monthly or the American Red Cross.

 

Thank you to the thousands of helpers all over the state of Texas.

 

Seems like Mr. Rogers’ mother was right.

 

—Julia

 

*25 years later, I’m still extremely close to my wonderful childhood neighbors.

 

**No really—I’ve tried. This is the closest I’ve come to perfecting the recipe. I even created a cookbook for my family to retell our stories of cuisine, comfort, and craziness.

 

 

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