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Look for the helpers

Look for the helpers
Look for the helpers
Dr. Wayne Willis

“Look for the helpers.” —Nancy McFeely Rogers Flagg

Fred Rogers, when counseling children and their parents after horrible public tragedies, like the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School of 26 children and adults, would say, “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’.”

One such helper was Louis Sansbury. When a cholera epidemic struck his little town, one of every 10 people died. The local newspaper said the plague was so bad that “even the songbirds fell lifeless from the great elm trees that shaded the farm yards and streets.”

When the merchants and property owners fled the plagued town in a panic, they left their keys with Sansbury, 27, to look after their unattended properties and businesses. Sansbury, with the help of Matilda Sims and the Rev. Cheeney at the Presbyterian church, cared for over 100 sick people. Sims, the hotel cook, made meals every day that Sansbury distributed to the people in town who could eat. When patients died, Sansbury dug holes and buried the bodies alongside the road going up Cemetery Hill.

Another cholera epidemic hit in 1854, and Sansbury did as he had done in 1833, caring for the sick and burying the dead. He died in 1861, the year before President Abraham Lincoln issued the emancipation proclamation.

A black plaque on the side of a red brick building in downtown Springfield, Ky., pays tribute to Louis Sansbury as their “Hometown Hero.” In white letters, it reports that when his owner, George Sansbury, died, Louis was emancipated and “a grateful city remembered his courage and compassion and helped him purchase and establish a blacksmith shop.”

Look for the helpers.

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