Since the news of yesterday’s senseless bombing during the Boston Marathon, I’ve seen on several social media sites a comforting quote from Fred Rogers. It goes something 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,’” followed by his observation that he found that experience to be consistently true. I was struck by the solace his simple, homespun story offered and how many people are subscribing to his point of view. Clearly, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood lives on.
I started thinking about the other Rogers in whom I have found wisdom in the face of inhumanity and sorrow, Dr. Carl Rogers. Carl Rogers, for those who are unfamiliar with his work, was a leader in the Humanistic movement within psychology in the 20th century. He held firmly in his belief that people are ultimately good and have the capacity to heal themselves. One of his quotes that came to my mind yesterday was, “When I look at the world I am pessimistic, but when I look at people I am optimistic.” He also believed that living a good life was not achieved by arriving at any particular state – be it happiness or nirvana or achievement or virtue. Rather, he proposed the idea that the Good Life was a journey rather than a destination.
Journeys are seldom easy. Their opportunities are non-partisan. We will experience breathtaking scenery, amazing people, disappointing meals, and frustrating detours along the way. Sometimes, tragedy befalls us. Other times, an unexpected encounter reframes the experience and we are transformed.
Many of us are still reeling a day after this terrible event. We’re feeling vulnerable in our communities. There are so many things about yesterday’s cruel act of terror we don’t know yet and that in and of itself adds another dimension to our anxiety. I think it is prudent to seek the reassurance of those in whom we have shared vision for making sense of the senseless. For me, the compassion of Carl Rogers – who emphasized human potential rather than our mental and behavioral illnesses – filled that empty space today.