Positive messages left outside a bar in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village last month

BUILDING BRIDGES: Plenty of positives to focus on in spite of tragedy

As a mom of young children, I protect my little ones from the ugliness that forms our news, but I know one day I won’t be able to.

Watching the news is not for the faint of heart, and many people have sworn off staying updated on world events via media.

I understand that. Being bombarded by visuals of horrific events that seem to be happening too frequently in our global community can be demoralizing, and make us feel like we have to be afraid of our own shadows.

As a mom of young children, I protect my little ones from the ugliness that forms our news, but I know one day I won’t be able to.

And when I can no longer pretend that mind-blowing, heart-breaking tragedies don’t happen, I’ll be borrowing a page from another mother – the mother of Fred Rogers (host of TV’s Mister Rogers Neighbourhood).

As a child, when he saw something scary on the news, Nancy Rogers would say to her son, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

She was right. In every catastrophe, natural or man-made, you will find hordes of people on the frontline, rolling up their sleeves and doing what needs to be done.

And when people can’t physically be on-site, they show solidarity across the continents through their words and rituals.

This is the thing I want to show my kids when the time comes, because it’s what helps me. If I focus on the many, many more people who are on the side of good, I have a slightly easier time getting through what has happened.

A friend of mine who was participating in a local run this year admitted she wasn’t so much worried about the fact she hadn’t properly trained for the run as she was of a terrorist attack at the event.

It made me sad that this was even a thought that had to cross her mind, but I could understand why it did.

Despite the fact that every day, countless people around the world are saving lives, building organizations that improve the health, safety, and education of others, and essentially spending their professional or personal time to help perfect strangers, many of us focus on the few who seem hell-bent on perpetuating their hate.

They are scary and infuriating and yes, even deadly, but what I worry most about is how much power they have over our minds and emotional state.

Because without meaning to, we could end up doing the rest of the dirty work for them simply by becoming hateful ourselves.

This is a trend I am sad to see happening the world over, where innocent people are being stereotyped as evil-doers and judged before they are known.

To avoid getting caught up in that game myself, I continue to look for the helpers: the men and women who donated blood after the shooting in Orlando during a time they were fasting, the firefighters who came from South Africa to do what they could about the fires in Fort Mac, the local people in every community that has seen violence who have come together to pick up the pieces of broken hearts, broken lives and broken hope.

They are brave and generous, and numerous.

This is not an attempt to sweep tragedy and pain under the rug, but an effort to help us move forward with as little as possible of that fear and hate that a small percentage of humanity wants to plant within us.

When the young ones are ready to learn about both the good and the bad in our world, where will we direct their focus?

In preparation for that moment, can we be mindful of where we direct ours?

Columnist Taslim Jaffer writes monthly on multicultural connections.

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