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In tragedy, Mr. Rogers' words vital -- and viral

  • 'Look for the helpers' widely shared on Facebook and Twitter
  • Mr. Rogers' simple advice first appeared in 1986 newspaper
  • Rogers: 'When children bring up something frightening, it's helpful right away to ask them what they know about it'
In tragedy, Mr. Rogers' words vital -- and viral

From the moment the news first arrived about Monday's tragic double bombing in Boston, people across America -- and likely across your social media networks -- turned to a familiar face for comfort: Mister Rogers.

By now it's likely you have seen someone share this advice from the children's TV star on coping with horrible events:

"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."

These are wonderful words intended for adults who have to face uncomfortable questions from children. But as we've seen after the Boston Marathon tragedy, and after Sandy Hook when the quote was first circulated by PBS on Facebook, they apply to all of us.

When terrible images with incomprehensible destruction and suffering fill our screens and browsers, of course our eyes (and our children's eyes) are trained on the damage and the people running away from the scene. But there are people running toward the scene, too. The "helpers" really are everywhere, and the simple wisdom from one of our most beloved public figures helps remind us of that -- that no matter how old you are, you can find something besides pure terror in what Rogers called "scary news".

That's why the original PBS Facebook post has been shared more than 91,000 times, and why mentions of "Mister Rogers" on Twitter -- a place more often filled with cynicism than sentimentality -- are up more than 7,000% since the attacks.

And for those lingering cynics who doubt the authenticity of this quote, we're sorry to tell you that it is, in fact, legitimate. PBS includes it on this very useful page with advice for talking with children about disturbing events. According to Internet hoax detector, the quote not only checks out, it even first appeared as far back as 1986 in a syndicated newspaper column written by Fred Rogers.

And in the video below, in his familiar soothing and thoughtful tone, Rogers offers additional thoughts on parents faced with "scary news".

"When children bring up something frightening, it's helpful right away to ask them what they know about it. We often find their fantasies are very different from the actual truth. What children probably need to hear most from us adults is that they can talk with us about anything and we will do all we can to keep them safe in any scary time.

I'm always glad to be your neighbor."

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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