The Poets and the Helpers

2024-01-26T07:43:43-08:00Categories: arts, Creative, featured posts, featured posts, nature, politics|Tags: , , |

We were practicing small talk. “What is your favorite season?” was one of the questions on our worksheet. When the teacher asked me—her once-a-week classroom helper—what I  wanted to say was “all the seasons, every one of them,” but for the sake of demonstrating to English language learners how small talk typically goes, I said “Summer.” And smiled. And on this cold, gray January morning, everyone in the classroom sighed, because just by saying the word out loud—summer­­—I had brought summer into all of our minds for about one second. I felt like a poet, who had just recited a one-word poem. Short though it was, it needed no other words. I felt like a helper, who had just taken a classroom of refugees, exhausted by the daunting task of learning English, on a one-second vacation. As we plunge into this fraught year, I’ve been thinking about Mr. Rogers’ oft-quoted advice—“Look for the helpers”—and pondering why this simple phrase has had such a comforting, calming effect on so many millions of people, myself included. I came across a 2018 essay in the Atlantic by Ian Bogost in which he chastised adults like myself who have clung naïvely to this advice intended for children. “Ironically,” Bogost wrote, “when adults cite ‘Look for the helpers,’ they are saying something tragic, not hopeful: Grown-ups now feel so disenfranchised that they implicitly self-identify as young children.” But I disagree. Adults understand nuance. We know the helpers can’t make everything better. But we also understand that it is essential to know they [...]