Mr. Rogers said to look for the helpers in the world.
But all the helpers are getting burned out and underpaid.
If we’re not careful, there will be no more helpers.
I teach English online to students who are studying to be nurses. Their hearts are enormous. They want to help so badly, but they are being pushed to their limits.
Many of them are single moms who are taking on the debt of school in an attempt to better themselves. They go to work, caring for others while putting their own health at risk. They do it because they love it and feel called to do the work.
But the burnout is setting in. Each class in the Zoom call, they inevitably chit-chat about how it’s too much. Juggling life with school and work. The fact that they are so underpaid as nursing assistants that they can’t pay their bills, let alone a school loan they took out to climb the ladder of success.
The helpers in the world are going to stop helping, if we don’t start caring for them better.
Some people have such big hearts, the rest of society starts to take them for granted. They know someone will step up and do the hard jobs and be underpaid. And it’s true. The helpers step up.
They say things like, “I’ll figure the money out. I just love helping others.” Society knows this, so we underpay our nurses, teachers, and social workers. Society knows the helpers crave personal fulfillment and won’t put up much of a fight over finances.
I stepped up this month by agreeing to substitute teach in my childrens’ school. I’ll be lucky if I can continue to endure it until the end of the year. I had no idea what middle-school teachers are going through.
Shouting through a mask all day to students who don’t respect me.
Sitting in rooms where the heaters are so old they sometimes blast cold air.
Holding my pee because I have no time to step away, and the kids absolutely will misbehave if I walk away.
I can tell I’ve been spoiled by jobs in the corporate world where I have a nice desk, hot coffee, and space to be an adult who is not constantly disciplining teenagers who are addicted to screens. I am annoyed by the harsh discomforts of school, yet when I mention it to other teachers who work there full-time, they smile, and say, “Yep. If I didn’t love teaching so much, I wouldn’t be here.”
But what happens when all the helpers one day collectively flip us off and walk away?
That is what’s happening. Burnout is setting in. Teachers are jumping ship as the world is now telling them how to do their job and steer clear of teachings that are now somehow deemed inappropriate.
I have an acquaintance who was a social worker and now works in real estate. She walked away from being a helper because it got to be too much. She was underpaid and overworked. The emotional turmoil she endured from being a helper led her to hang her heart up and go after the money.
I don’t blame her, but what if this keeps happening?
Please, let’s all start doing a better job of caring for our helpers. Surprise a helper in your life with dinner or a gift card. Remind them we see them and don’t take their underpaid help for granted.
It says a lot about society’s priorities when someone can make more money serving burgers than they can caring for the sick or watching our babies. Mr. Rogers would be putting his face in his hands right now.
In a chaotic, uncertain world, we should keep looking for the helpers. Absolutely. But we should also try to be the helpers as well in any small ways possible to take on the weight.
We can look for the helpers, but we can also help the helpers when we find them.