On Monday HuffPost UK published my blog post entitled, 'Why I Have Cried Over The Kindness of Strangers' http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ruth-drake/why-i-have-cried-over-the_b_16751178.html It was a post about how wonderfully the majority of people treat my severely disabled daughter, Elin. People that don't know us at all, and how despite some negative reactions to Elin along the way, most folk never cease to amaze us with their empathy towards her and us as a family.
This was, of course, before the atrocities in Manchester on Monday night. In a venue we have ourselves watched concerts in countless times, in a city we know inside out we could hardly believe what we were seeing. As the full extent of the horror unfolded around me on Tuesday morning, I was struck mostly by the stories of those who helped. Those people who risked their lives to protect others and the stories of complete strangers showing an incredible amount of compassion towards those they had never met. I was finally broken, whilst watching the coverage, by a story of people forming human chains towards the exits in order to help those in wheelchairs escape. This before they would have been fully aware of what had happened or what danger they still may be in themselves. That could have been us, that could have been Elin stranded amongst the terror. How would you ever repay that sort of kindness, that pure human solidarity during such life-changing moments?
On Monday I could never have guessed how relevant the message I was hoping to impart with that particular blog post would be, as events unfolded in Manchester that night. As unthinkable tales of horror reached the media, so too did stories of amazing love, selflessness, strength and support between strangers. A homeless man sleeping outside the Arena walked towards the blast, knowing that he needed to help without fear for his own life and ended up clearing debris and caring for the injured. NHS workers, fire officers and police from all over the North turned up to report for duty - so many that some had to be sent home. There were queues of people waiting to donate blood, people who had travelled from all over the UK. Others turned up with food for the emergency services workers, or walked the streets handing out bottled water. Manchester families took in the lost, taxi drivers offered free rides to anyone who needed them. Children in school's across the country signed cards and flags to send to the families of the victims. Crowdfunding pages were set up and amassed thousands of pounds in a matter of hours. It seems that in times when we see the very worst of humanity, we also see the best.
We read so much in the newspapers about how 'desensitised' we are all becoming to basic human values, particularly the younger generations. How we are a 'look down' population, staring blankly at our phones, no longer talking to one another, not fully engaging with each other's lives and problems. Yet in the wake of this tragedy, all I could see was love and unity. An act designed to cause fear and hatred inspired strength and love. The human spirit is a formidable force and we have to draw such hope from what we know about those strangers thrown together so unexpectedly on Monday night.
Something I saw quoted again and again on Tuesday was a story told by Fred Rogers, the popularity of which indicated to me our very human need to rise up from devastation. To find good where there is evil, to see positives where it seems there are none. It was a story he told about when he was a boy and used to be upset by things on the news:
"My mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping'. To this day, in disaster, I remember my mother's words, and I am always comforted by realising that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world."
This is the message we must carry forward with us in the wake of this awful attack. As we as a family have come to know, there really is so much love and kindness in the world, sometimes you just need to open your eyes a little wider to see it.
Always look for the helpers.
*This post first appeared at www.mummakinglemonade.blogspot.co.uk*