Very early on in my life, I was introduced to Fred Rogers. Of course, he was just “Mr. Roger’s” to everyone, and given the benefit of hindsight, I see how many of his teachings I had subconsciously absorbed. One such teaching has always stuck in my head, though.
“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.'”
However, I’ve always interpreted it differently with the word ‘healers’ replacing ‘helpers.’ But ultimately, it’s a negligible difference. And now, I’d like to revisit it again and tweak it further.
Sunday night, my seasonal job stopped services for the season. We took all the guests out of the resort, and we had the whole lake to ourselves. It was 60 degrees, sunny and for all intents and purposes, perfect. We decided to take one more group boat ride up the lake.
The sun goes down early now, around 3:30 or 4 behind the mountains, and by 5, it’s dark. It was a chilly ride out and back, and everyone was in party mode. The drinks had been flowing early, and everyone was partaking in Washington’s favorite recreational drug. Minus one.
Aside from the fact that I don’t smoke or drink anymore, I find that I inevitably feel more alone when I’m around people. Or people that I don’t develop a connection with. I won’t delve into that again here, as I feel like I’ve spoken ad nauseam about it.
So, I sat on the back edge of the boat, arms folded, wind whipping around me, drowning out the white noise of laughter and yelling. I’m sure it looked very stoic and calm. But my mind was racing faster than the boat.
I reflected on this experience, how it wasn’t what I wanted it to be, and how I struggled to find real connections because of how peculiar I am. But around that, Mr. Roger’s quote popped up.
Some people like to say I can be pessimistic. I prefer to think of myself as a realist with a low bar for people. I can develop expectations for people, but the bar is on the ground if I don’t know you. I’d much rather be pleasantly surprised than consistently let down. So, naturally, I became the devil’s advocate on Mr. Roger’s. Mr.-fucking-Roger’s. Maybe I am a pessimist.
“Why, helpers? People can be helpers for selfish reasons? What if they’re only helping people to benefit themselves, or when they know it will benefit them?” I know; why can’t I just accept the point of the quote instead of spiraling around the word choice. Alas…
I eventually settled on my own version of the phrase. Find people of substance. People of substance may not always be able to help, but they are good people. They don’t discriminate. They are active in resisting barriers set up by people in power positions and are ready to fight for people beyond themselves. They could very well be selfish, but they translate that self-care into service for others. I know this can all apply to ‘helpers,’ but just rock with me.
Additionally, people of substance have depth. They connect with you in a way that others don’t. It’s the difference I’ve noticed in my time at the resort. There aren’t any bad people here. I would argue that most of them are helpers. But they aren’t, in my life, people of substance. It’s like the difference between having work friends and work acquaintances. There’s a connection, or lack of, that you can feel.
Why look for people of substance then? Why not take good people at face value and enjoy that they exist rather than selfishly lean toward people with who you personally connect on a deeper level?
Because people of substance help you round into your most authentic form. I think back on those touchstone moments in my life where I’ve had one of these people in my life. Every time, I learned so much about myself and the world and became better for it. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to maintain my relationships due to my own issues. And sometimes, they were a twin flame. Meant to be in your life for a short time, and then you drift apart.
Either way, I believe fully in my theory of people of substance. You gain so much when you connect with these people, and they help you, and consequently, the world, get better. And if there’s one thing we need the whole world to do right now, it’s get better. Peace, love, and positivity.