One Tiny Act of Resistance

When terrifying events show up in the news, Fred Rogers once said, children should look for the people helping on the sidelines. “When you see the helpers,” he said, “you’ll know there’s hope.”

I don’t have much hope for the next four years. But I do take comfort from the helpers. From my friend Janine, for example, who dressed down a group of homophobes in Pennsylvania. From my friend Rhea, who signed up to volunteer at a homeless shelter that could lose funding in a Republican administration. From Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, who said last week, “If one day Muslims will be forced to register, that is the day that this proud Jew will register as a Muslim.” From the hundreds of protesters who came out last Sunday to support immigrants.

And inspired by those helpers, I took one small step to become one myself.

On Wednesday, I started the process to become a volunteer advocate for victims or domestic and sexual violence at the Beth Israel Mount Sinai emergency room. After a month of training in January, I am to help victims navigate their options in the E.R. and help them negotiate with medical staff and the police.

It’s a serious job, and I’m pretty nervous about my ability to do it. But a man who boasted about sexual assault is about to become president. Another who defends such behavior is about to become the country’s top law-enforcement officer. Two men who couldn’t summon the courage to stand against it will lead both houses of Congress. It could be a tough time for victims of sexual violence.

So I’m signing up to be a helper. The volunteer coordinator at Beth Israel told me she was happy to see a man among the many women who have signed up since the election. The first few human interactions after a trauma can affect a victim’s chances of developing P.T.S.D., she said, and having a supportive man around soon after an incident may help ease a victim’s future relationships with other men.

It’s a tiny step, but it’s helping me so far. It’s been hard to conjure up the energy I need to face an ugly new world, and it helps to have a job at hand. Something that makes a small but (hopefully) palatable difference. Something that lets me play my small part in mitigating the damage of Trump’s presidency. It’s giving me a bit of energy to face the next four to eight years. And hard as it will be, I imagine it’ll give me the energy I need to take to the streets the next time the marmalade monster lashes out against women.

If you’re distraught about the election, and if you have the time, you should consider becoming a helper, too. Get to work, if you can. Do something to help someone else. Do something to you believe in. It probably won’t make you feel better about the world. But it might help you feel better about your place in it.