Look for the Helpers
As noted in my previous post, I’ve been doing a bit of cartooning for the Hampshire Gazette. There are a few reasons for this– one, I really miss the culture, pace and visibility of newspaper work. This was where I started out in the early 90s. But more importantly, I feel like, as an arts-based researcher, I really need to remember that I am, first and foremost an artist, and that the researcher identity does not have primacy simply because of the social capital involved. So, I’m trying to remember who I am and build up my chops and street cred while I’m at it. The Gazette has been great letting me hang out in the Home Section, too, and I thank them from the bottom of my little cartoon heart.
However, no sooner than I had finished drawing my latest home improvement cartoon (See above– this one was on ants! I had so much fun drawing those guys and also exorcising my own fear of creepy crunchies), we were all transported into the science fiction reality of COVID-19 and our sudden and near total social isolation, quarantine, lockdowns and general slough of despond. I read the paper and the news every day and wished I could do something to help the sick, and the isolated, and the despairing among us. I’m not that kind of doctor, so I was at a loss about what to do. Then I remembered good old Fred Rogers, who exhorted us to look for the helpers and take comfort. And I started drawing the series, Look for the Helpers.
Here is the introduction to the series as it appears in the 19th March Gazette:
Editor’s note: Over the next week, the Gazette will feature the work of cartoonist Sally Campbell Galman, who has been collecting stories from the Valley and beyond of “the helpers” or people doing everyday good things.
In difficult and disorienting times, it can be healing to hear stories of the good in the world, the good people, the helpers and the heroes among us, quietly doing the work of getting us through, day in and day out. And not only do these stories give us hope, they also do what stories and storytellers have done since there were stories to tell: they sustain us, and keep us together. As Ann Lamott writes in Bird by Bird, “Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.”
So here are some songs in the tune of hope. I believe that art heals, so I’ve been collecting and illustrating stories about the people out there doing an array of “amazing acts of social solidarity” (@mattdpearce) big and small in the Valley and beyond. I’ll be sharing these in coming issues of the Gazette. If you have a story to share, please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org We can’t stop the storm, but we can sing loud. Let’s get on with it.
While there is as much disagreement about the work of the artist as there is about what constitutes art, I believe that the artist– like the scholar– can be the conscience of a culture, and the encourager of hope, doubt, and possibility alike. Like Leo Lionni’s Frederick, who comforted his fellows with poetry, I affirm that art heals. It comforts the afflicted and creates the conditions by which we all might become more fully human. Plus funny cartoon pictures delight and comfort and encourage and what else are we supposed to be doing for one another?
Here is the link to the piece in the Gazette https://www.gazettenet.com/Sally-Campbell-Galman-33387104 — larger copies of the two introductory plates appear below so that folks can read them more easily. Read and enjoy and email your stories of Helpers big and small.