LETTER: Taking an example from 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood'

I grew up watching Mister Rogers' Neighborhood on PBS. It's funny how a TV personality can make one feel valued even through a television screen. As an adult, I'm learning to follow the example of Fred Rogers by using the platform I'm given to extend compassion and kindness to my own "neighbors."

Although I live in Oklahoma, I feel like Decatur is my "neighborhood." The families I have met and the children I have worked with have captured a special piece of my heart and I am happy they have accepted me too.

The Food and Fun project started as a way to share some novelty, joy and encouragement with the people I care about but, as I reflect on our July 27 giveaway, I am in awe of the many other examples of generosity and kindness shown within the little town of Decatur.

This year, it is easy to get lost in the negativity. Being isolated leaves us feeling disconnected, lonely and cynical. It seems everyone is tense and stressed and some days we just feel hopeless. Mister Rogers tells a story of a time, as a boy, he was feeling particularly scared and his mother advised him to "look for the helpers." This perspective shift highlights the good in a situation and renews hope and security.

Over the past month, I've been looking past the grim uncertainty to see the good and I'm happy to report there are a lot of "helpers" out there. There are donors giving generously to a passionate woman with an ambitious plan for a community project. There are small business owners looking past the uncertainty to bless others simply because they feel blessed. There are big companies finding inlets to help families in the communities they are in.

There are nonprofit groups diligently meeting the needs of those around them. There are school administrators giving up part of their Saturday to fill bags with games and snacks. There are teachers standing in a hot parking lot to wave and cheer when they see students they've been missing for months. There are city council members delivering packs to the families in their neighborhood.

There are neighbors sharing resources because everyone having some is better than someone having none. There are moms learning that a few groceries and fun kids' games would be a big help to another mom and offering to grab an extra.

If this experience has taught me anything, it's that there are still good people doing good things all around us and, when in doubt, take a minute to look for the helpers.

Andrea VanSandt

Decatur Schools and Food and Fun Giveaway coordinator