“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.’” ~Fred Rogers


It has been a tumultuous start to fall in America. Whether you are a diehard law-nerd following the confirmation hearings of the proposed Supreme Court Justice like a hawk, or a passive spectator watching everyone in your social media feeds argue over the impact of the hearings, you have likely witnessed a lot of heated debates about the selection process for the vacancy on the court.  Sadly, it’s often debilitating to be a law-nerd, because as constitutional scholars we are all too aware that the selection process is left up to our elected representatives.  In times like this I try to remember my childhood.  My parents did not appreciate the act of commiseration.  Action, they explained, empowers you.  Complaining does not.  In times like this it is easy to feel like a lost voice among a sea of screaming people.  It is even easier still to be complacent, to forget to be grateful for what we have, and to forget that we too have the power to become helpers.

The holidays are just around the corner, and with them come another season of giving.  If you are a frequent holiday volunteer who doesn’t spend much time in the community the rest of the year perhaps its time to take some of the passion you have felt toward the current political climate and turn it into action.  Below are some traditional and not so traditional ways to give back.

If none of those ideas spark your interest you may try something closer to home.  Many local schools look for volunteers in the classroom to listen to children read or help with other activities.  If political discourse is more up your alley consider volunteering with the local chapter of your political party, or volunteering to assist ensure voters are registered or can get to the poles on time.  Looking for something even more informal?  Try committing yourself to a few random acts of kindness per month (or week, or day).

I appreciate that Mr. Rogers’ mother taught him that helpers would always be near, as a child that must have been a great comfort for him, but it is also important to remember that if we want our children to see a community of helpers we must be helpful. It doesn’t matter if your version of help is raking the leaves for your elderly neighbor, or building houses for the less fortunate, or being an ear for a victim in a time of crisis.  What matters is that you do what you can to give back.  What matters is that our children see us acting as often as they see us arguing or complaining.  What matters is that we give them helpers to look for.

  • Volunteer CNY (A United Way Initiative) – The United Way’s Volunteer CNY offers a myriad of volunteer opportunities and is currently seeking assistance for: weekend meal prep; the Syracuse Film Festival; the care package project; and more! http://www.volunteercny.org/
  • Habitat for Humanity – In addition to help building houses (near and far) Habitat for Humanity seeks volunteers to work in their “Re-Store” and the local office. https://www.syracusehabitat.org/
  • Vera House – Vera House seeks volunteers to assist domestic violence victims with a variety of services from crisis hotlines to family court assistance. http://www.verahouse.org/volunteer
  • Salvation Army – If you are into something more traditional consider volunteering for the Salvation Army, of course you could ring the bell and collect donations for the holidays, but the Salvation Army offers volunteer opportunities year-round. https://syracuseny.salvationarmy.org/SyracuseNY/Volunteer
  • Rosamond Gifford Zoo – Working with animals doesn’t have to mean a trip to the animal shelter. Consider volunteering at the zoo for a unique experience that is sure to warm your heart. http://www.rosamondgiffordzoo.org/volunteer


Picture: http://www.clipartpanda.com/categories/thank-you-volunteer-clip-art