Eisenberg: In scary times, ‘Look for the helpers’
By Paul Eisenberg Citizen Journalistemail@example.com August 9, 2012 12:52PM
Updated: September 13, 2012 6:06AM
There was a fantastic quote that was being passed around the social media sites in the wake of the movie theater shooting in Colorado. It was from the late, great Mr. Rogers, of children’s television fame.
In the quote, Rogers passed along advice he received as a child from his mother: “Look for the helpers.”
Even if we’re lucky enough to avoid experiencing large-scale tragedies in real life, it’s nearly impossible to miss coverage of them on television, newspapers and radio. And in every case, along with images, depictions and descriptions of injury and death, there are instances of folks going out of their way to help people out.
Now I always look for them whenever the news reports something awful, and I point them out to my son. It helps to tell the complete story, that not only are people capable of terrible actions, they’re also willing to go out of their way to help.
It’s a concept that doesn’t just apply to extreme situations and catastrophes. We are surrounded by helpers. They’re the folks who stop to ask if you¹re all right after a fender bender, or even those who let you know you’re about to leave your coat or purse behind as you get up to leave a restaurant.
Every day, there are hundreds of instances of helpfulness, most acknowledged only by a quick, “Thanks,” if even that. But then there are the folks who go beyond being just mere helpers, waiting for happenstance to place them in a position to be helpful. They’re the unsung heroes, the folks who are the glue that makes communities worth living in.
Over the last few years, I’ve had the great fortune to get to know one of these heroes. To many here in Steger, she’s probably best known as one of the lunchroom workers at Eastview Elementary School.
But I first met Mary Sassano— who doesn’t know I’m writing about her this week — when her daughter and my son became pals in the special needs class at that school. Over the years, she’s gone from being a super-active parent to a beacon for the special needs community in the area.
After seeing an opportunity to host a party for families of special kids around Christmas time, she pounced on it and helped to marshal the forces needed to bring Santa Claus into town on a fire truck complete with a personalized present for each of the kids. A lot of other groups help with the event, which has been held for the last two years, but to my knowledge, Mary was the lead instigator.
And for the last two summers, Mary has sought out free tickets to a Chicago White Sox game for a bunch of families with special needs kids. It’s a perk that most of us would be completely unaware of if she hadn’t made it happen.
I had a chance to personally thank her for her untiring efforts a couple of weeks ago. Mary told me she organized such events as the White Sox trips and Christmas parties because so many families don’t have the chance to do things together any more. It’s the nature of the times we live in, she said.
People are simply too busy to have fun as a family. And events like Major League Baseball games have become luxuries for folks saddled with bills for ongoing medical treatment and therapies for their children.
Mary’s not alone in her efforts. Her husband, Randy, also is a tireless fundraiser and proponent of organizations such as SouthStar Services.
And since my son was born a little over nine years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting several other folks who find the time in their busy lives to bring a bit of fun and joy to people in the special needs community, especially.
So thank you Mary and Randy. And thanks to all the helpers out there. You are the people who make the world go around.