When an attack, tragedy or crisis strikes somewhere in the world, among the people offering their condolences are the people who are also offering help. For example, after the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, the hashtag #PorteOuverte trended on Twitter—offering an “open door” to anyone who needed a place to stay.
In 2017, Facebook launched a Crisis Response feature, which allowed users not only to mark themselves safe after an incident in their area but also to offer help to others affected. Although it is sadly easy to find people spewing hatred online after attacks, it has become commonplace to find people offering help, too.
Sometimes it can seem more difficult to translate this into the real world; to see the “helpers” that Fred Rogers spoke about. Often the people in the news are the victims, or the perpetrators; it can seem less less coverage is dedicated to the people helping. At an event in 2015, I asked Arianna Huffington for her advice for an aspiring journalist. She told me to write about solutions.
Two years into my journalism degree, I completely understand the intent behind her advice. In one of my electives this year, we talked about solutions journalism—reporting on concrete solutions to address an issue. The Toronto Star recently published some amazing longform articles about a new approach to dementia and long-term care homes. The text at the top of the story reads, “The most dangerous story we can tell is how simple it was to change.”
As the author, journalist Moira Welsh, notes in the story, The Star has written about neglect and abuse in nursing homes in the past. Most of us are familiar with those horror stories; we know that a problem exists. But just because we are aware of a problem doesn’t mean we are aware of a potential solution—and by writing an uplifting story in which the solution which was found to be effective, Welsh paints the problem as something that can be solved.
I’ve seen the power of writing about solutions firsthand through my summer role at my local Habitat for Humanity in the past two years. I think most people know that there’s an issue with affordable housing crisis in our community, but hearing statistic after statistic about poverty, food bank use or housing prices isn’t exactly helping people find a way to contribute to the issue.
What I love about my job is that every day, I see the helpers. I see the people working on fundraising initiatives so that we can build more homes; I see the people actually constructing those homes. I see the people helping families apply for homeownership; I see the people volunteering their time to contribute to the organization’s mission.
I love reading about people who are helping, through social media initiatives and articles like the examples above. But there’s something different, and profoundly powerful, about seeing efforts to provide solutions firsthand. Working alongside people who are making an active effort to create affordable housing for families has shown me that no matter what the problem is, there will be people working to find solutions.
I’ve always considered myself a positive person, and I think seeing the world from the perspective of looking for helpers and solutions—instead of perpetrators and problems—is a really uplifting way to go about life. I’m grateful for the opportunity to witness solutions firsthand, and I hope I get to write about solutions in my career as a journalist.