“Look for the helpers. There’s always someone trying to help.” That’s the advice Fred Rogers got from his mother many years before he became a beloved figure on children’s television.
It’s comforting to children, but it’s also valid for adults. When violence like the massacre in Orlando confronts us, it’s even more important to pay attention to the communities of cooperators. Often people are working quietly behind the scenes, practicing creative courage as they address the frustrations that lead to distrust and anger.
Sometimes we try to paper over frustrations. We say things like “People will always disagree” or “Prejudice is inevitable.” We may ask people to mask their feelings or steer clear of those they dislike. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen over and over, when anger and prejudice are left to simmer, they often boil over.
True cooperation—the kind that forms a bulwark against violence–rests on respect. And respect requires us to practice deep discernment whenever we feel distaste or even disdain towards others. We must also invite others to practice discernment, giving them opportunities to understand and value people they don’t readily understand.
You may already know about groups that do this in your community, but if you need models, here are four groups that qualify as helpers. Amid the carnage, they continue to work quietly and consistently toward the kind of cooperation that not only prevents violence but also produces genuine benefits for everyone willing to participate.
Not in Our Town is a movement to stop hate, address bullying, and build safe, inclusive communities for all.
Kaleidoscope Youth Center works in partnership with young people in to create safe and empowering spaces for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Ally youth in Central Ohio.
GSA Network empowers and trains queer, trans and allied youth leaders to advocate, organize, and mobilize an intersectional movement for safer schools and healthier communities.