Monday, January 11, 2016

Looking for the Helpers

Did you know that the Arctic Tern, that lives about seven degrees south of the North Pole, leaves its home every year and flies all the way to Antarctica and back -- some 23,000 miles in all?

It flies all that distance and returns to just the same spot it left the year before. I can hardly drive across town without getting lost -- how does the little bird do it? Twenty three thousand miles! Instinctively, the Arctic Tern flies halfway around the globe, returns home every year and never makes a wrong turn.

Other animals have a similar ability. It’s well known that the salmon leaves her little mountain stream as a fingerling and swims, perhaps hundreds of miles, to the ocean where she lives most of her life. Then, when it's time to lay eggs, she swims back to her place of birth. She somehow finds just the right river, and all of the correct tributaries and streams and creeks until she arrives home. It's the trip of a lifetime -- one she may not survive. But she presses on, somehow knowing just the right paths to take along the way. Like the Arctic Tern, the salmon somehow knows the way.

When I was a child my family visited the World’s Fair in Seattle. I think my parents knew me well, because shortly after we arrived they pointed out the Space Needle in the distance. “Do you see the Space Needle?” they asked. “You can see it from anyplace at the fair. If you should get separated from us or lost, just go to the Space Needle and sit down. We will come and find you.”

Unlike the tern and the salmon, I had no built-in navigation system. It wasn’t long before I turned around and discovered my family was no longer with me. I was lost. I spotted the Space Needle, headed there and sat down. Shortly, my brother (who had a better sense of direction than I) came and found me.

We don’t all have a refined sense of direction. But human beings have something else that is perhaps more important. It is also instinctual. We are born with the ability to ask for help and to give it.

Television personality Fred Rogers put it like this: “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.” We are born to be helpers.

When you’re lost, look for the helpers. When your life is headed in the wrong direction, when you are afraid of making poor decisions, look for the helpers. When you don’t know if you can navigate life’s complexities by yourself, look for the helpers. You don’t have to go it alone - there is always someone close by who is ready to help. 

This life is not a long journey you have to travel by yourself. We’re made to do it with each other. Look for the helpers.

-- Steve Goodier