Look for The Helpers: A Reminder Before Irma Arrives

“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.’

To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

I heard this quote by Fred Rogers a few years ago, and as we await the arrival of Hurricane Irma, I am wondering, what will your children see?

As a 17-year-old, in Miami after Hurricane Andrew, I remember a lot of specific details.

Yes, there were houses with spray paint that said “Looters will be Shot.” There was devastation, and loss.

But the immediate memories that I recall had to do with the Helpers.

My most vivid memory is the one of my dad, arriving from 4 hours away — a drive that took him almost 7 hours to make — with brand new chain saws that were unavailable in Miami for weeks after the storm had passed.

Our street was completely blocked — and not a priority for disaster relief. If we’d waited for them to come, it would have been weeks before our neighbors could have returned home.

My dad brought the chain saws, and I remember vividly the joy I felt when he taught me how to use one, so I could help. Maybe I wasn’t responsible for clearing much of the trees blocking the street, but I was there, doing something — helping. And that gave me a feeling I hadn’t known before — purpose.

Yes, helping gives us purpose — meaning. In spite of whatever stress is surrounding us, in helping, there’s an incredible gift to gain.

That’s why, when there is any kind of disaster, you will always find people volunteering to help.

Just look around. And, when you see someone else stepping forward to help, join them — you can always find a way to help.

Even if it’s just to offer someone a reassuring smile, or to give them one of the last loaves of bread on the shelf, or to bring your chain saw to help them clear their driveway.

Getting outside of your own frustration and helping someone else solve their problems, will lead you to something really profound — the only thing more meaningful than you helping your neighbors, is teaching your children the power in the actions of helping their neighbors.

As we recover from the aftermath, whatever that might be, I believe the greatest stories will come from helping. 24 years from now, what will your children remember about their experience after Hurricane Irma? The frustration of no electricity, no Internet, no hot water?

Or the feeling they might get from helping?


I took a break from my 30 Day Challenge last night. I didn’t have anything productive (or positive) to say. I was exhausted in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and, while there is a lot of destruction, it could have been so much worse.

But it’s still a mess. And the people are not helping it feel any better. Actually, it seems that while there are so many amazing stories to tell about wonderful people and neighbors, helping neighbors, there are a lot of people forgetting their manners.

I am not proud of what I see happening around me — it makes me want to stick my head in the sand, and just quit trying. I can’t imagine how the employees, on the other side of the complaints, are feeling. They are responsible for providing all of the power and all of the answers, and it’s never going to be good enough. Even when what is happening is close to miraculous.

Just in my city alone, there were 78,000 buildings without power when Irma left our area. That was on Monday morning, when everything was still total chaos, and our municipal employees were not working. Within 24 hours, they had assessed the damage and deployed the linemen to get to work, fixing — working toward normal.

That’s what has occurred to me since Monday — We’re constantly working toward something we don’t have — what is normal? Is that what we want? Or, could we have something better? Couldn’t we strive for being better?

Today, is Wednesday, and there are approximately 25,000 houses remaining in the Lakeland Electric service area. That is about 50,000 people who are comfortable, safe and celebrating the hard work and efforts of the electric company.

I assume this is probably the same across the state. Duke Energy, TECO, FPL. Over 10,000,000 customers throughout Florida woke up without power because of the mess Irma left behind.

This is the question that is on everyone’s mind — mine included. I don’t have power yet either. And yet, my mind isn’t on when power at my house will be restored. I have the good fortune of being able to crash at the house of some wonderful friends. So, yes, I am a little inconvenienced, but safe, and cool, and well-fed. For me, that is all I can ask for. I know I will have power eventually. And that is enough for me.

But out there, it’s not enough.

No, the fact is, and will continue to be that many people will not accept anything that “forgets” them. They insist that they are the most important, and they don’t care that there are 24,999 others in the same situation. They want to know when their power is going to be turned on, they need answers to their questions, and they aren’t going to stop until they get their answers — until their problem is solved. At that point, what will happen? Will they still be concerned about their neighbors? Or will they just be satisfied that they have what they need and stop complaining?

I didn’t write a post yesterday because I didn’t want to be critical of the ugliness. But I believe we have a responsibility to speak the truth.

I am grateful to the workers who are spending 16 hours each day trying to restore power to all of the city. I am grateful for the communication that I am receiving from local leaders. I am grateful to all of the positive, caring people who are helping.

But I am ready for the ugliness to stop. I am ready for the negative attitudes and the accusations to end. I am ready for those who are without power to look beyond themselves and see what is good in the world. To appreciate the gift that we did not sustain more damage. To stop hearing that there is more that could have been or should have been done. That 72 hours after the storm is gone, more people should have their power restored?

I am ready for more people to begin asking this question?

What in the world can we do to make things better?

I hope this helps, but I am sure it won’t. But that’s not going to be a reason to stop trying. Just like those linemen — busting their assess to bring power back to the remaining homes. It’s not ever going to be enough, because the ugliness isn’t going to stop. But they are not going to stop. And neither am I.

Come on, people — Pause, Breathe, Stay Positive.


We tend to think about the world the way it is reported — in the extreme edges. But this leaves out much of the story. This is the “Broad Brush.” In times after disasters, we forget about how much we can do, in between the edges.

When you look between the extremes, you find what really powers the world — the place where agencies that are created and funded to serve those in extreme need leave off, and where everything else comes together to fill the gaps.

These are the stories mainstream media misses, because they are so focused on the edges. Telling the extreme stories. (And, sometimes making stories seem extreme).

In between these extremes, everything else exists.

What actually happens, in between the stories of horrific floods, gaping holes and destruction?

People take care of themselves and then, they take care of their neighbors. We share the load, and we come together to help make everything better.

Yes, sometimes, we are on the edges, but most of the time, we’re in the space between, getting things figured out, while those that really need help are being taken care of.

The space between is filled with capable, caring people — who fly under the radar, and make it possible for those needing care to receive it. This is the space where neighbors work to clear debris from the street, to make it possible for everyone to return home after the storm has subsided. It’s the space where families and friends come together to “make it through.” There’s no light needed to shine on the space between — this is the space that just is.

And, when you think about it, this is the space the makes our communities the strongest. It’s the space where resilient, self-sufficient and caring people live. It’s where you find kindness, patience, and love.

The space between is where we thrive, even when no one is looking.


Climbing. Climbing. Climbing
Reaching. Reaching. Reaching.
Hoping. Hoping. Hoping.
Praying. Praying. Praying.


We’re all in this together. And, the only way out is through. As tensions mount, and the communities prepare, I see something beautiful in front of me. Do you see it too?

As the entire state of Florida awaits a natural disaster, I anticipate we’re going to see so much love and generosity as we come together, find the helpers and survive this historic storm — together.

Storms don’t pay much attention to the things we’re constantly consumed with. They are the great equalizer. And, they remind us of what actually matters in this world.

I actually heard a man say he was afraid on the news today — and he said, “we’re all afraid.” And no one argued with him.

When terror gripped the country on 9/11 in 2001, fear gripped us all. We came to a realization then that nothing was sacred, and that safety is something we take for granted. We shared a common enemy then, and we share the same enemy today.

The enemy is hatred. And, it’s around us every day. Confederate monuments, bigotry, racism, and disrespect are still rampant, even though we said We Will Never Forget.

The country came together then, as I know will happen again after Irma, and as it is happening in Houston, as well. And has happened every single time there has been catastrophe and disaster throughout our history.

What is responsible for what happens when we put our differences aside, and see past the disagreements?


The village is responsible — not for our safety, as that is never a guarantee. No, the village is responsible for the love that emerges when we begin dealing with the circumstances, and getting past the tragedy, the loss and the hurt that comes when we cannot hide from our vulnerability.

You, are the village. Not just today, and tomorrow and in the aftermath of a hurricane. You are the village every single day.

Your judgment of those who think and act and believe differently goes away, and you look at your neighbors and strangers, with different eyes when you know that we are all going through this together. Let us all remember this when we’re on the other side of this storm, and we’ve distanced ourselves from the fear.

Please don’t forget, we are all the village. And, it takes a village.