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Look for the helpers

November 14, 2015

It is a quote by Mr. Rogers which is going around the internet today, as it too often does.  He says that his mother always told him that when terrible things happen to “look for the helpers.  There will always be helpers.”  And indeed there are.

I knew I’d do my final post of this trip at the airport and that meant that I was going to have to jam a lot into it: our glorious glacier hike, where we were blasted by the icy beauty of this country while being unable to avoid the reality of global warming and the dramatic loss of glaciers; our visit to the black sand beach in Vik to see the stunning basalt columns and dramatic seas, which was cut short by an angry tour guide who yelled at us to stay out of the surf despite our not being part of his group; awe-inspiring waterfalls, one of which we hiked behind while the sun went down; and finally, the obligatory trip to the Blue Lagoon where we soaked away our sadness of the coming end to the trip.  We hugged good bye at the geo-thermal spa and as they headed to the airport, I jumped a bus back to Reykjavik.

On another day I shall talk about the differences of traveling alone versus with others.  For now, I will only say, I loved being with them and I was excited for my own time.

In Reykjavik, I happily wondered the city, which I’ve always thought looked like Aspen if it were by the sea and decorated by Ikea and children (there’s a lot of whimsy in Iceland).  As the sun went down, I grabbed a hot dog and headed to Harpa, the performing arts center on the water, which glitters in the sun like the Northern Lights.  The Iceland Opera performed the Barber of Seville with a small cast and sparse set, and a sense of humor never seen at the Met.  I chatted with the mostly Icelandic audience over wine during intermission and happily wound my way back to the hotel in the chilly air, and through the hoards of bar hoppers after.

Back in my room I learned the sad news of the attacks in Paris.  Facebook’s check in was welcome to make sure the couple friends I have there were safe, and I watched in horror as the news seemed to keep getting worse.  I woke lonely.  I’m not often lonely when I travel, but I felt far, far away from those who give me comfort on sad days.  While I was tempted to stay in my room and videos I’d downloaded for the trip, I knew I’d be better in sun.  I found a cafe I’d been to on my last visit and quickly found myself welcomed to a table with young Americans, Brits, and a German.  We drank lattes and talked of Paris and of the beautiful souls who’d opened their homes there for the frightened and alone.  We talked of NY, where a spontaneous group had gathered in Union Sq (where I found comfort after September 11) and sung the Marsaillaise.   We talked of Iceland and our families, and the delicious pastry.  And we all felt hopeful.

I am so grateful to that group, but I’ve found them so often around the world and back home.  The helpers Mr. Rogers mother was talking about are those in Paris running into the fire to save their fellow men, but they are also those who smile at strangers, who offer a welcoming word or a jolly handshake.  I was recently accused of being naive when I said that I thought people, the vast, vast majority of us, want to be good and want to help others.  Despite yesterday’s horrible reminder that there are those who want to harm, I believe more than every that I am right and that people are good.

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