Another day, another reminder of our humanity, with all its beauty and its brutality.
This time, two detonated bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
I’m a runner. I’ve run races. Long races. I’ve pounded my feet on that pavement, the will to keep going barely stronger than the pain in my legs. I’ve seen that finish line, felt the elation grow as I got closer, and never, ever, in my wildest dreams, did I ever consider anything waiting at the finish line besides a foil blanket, a finishers medal and a high-five. But now, the end of every race I ever run will always have an ellipsis after that high-five, and the race will inevitably end with…Could it happen here?
But it is just a seed, and a seed I can control. I will not let the seed grow. I refuse to water it. I refuse to shine a light on it. I refuse to let the roots dig deep and the stem to break the surface. It will not stop me from running, because running is one of the few things that keeps me from suffocating. I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other, because I can. Because they can’t take that away from me.
And even as I write this, I know this small, stupid seed is just that. Small. And stupid. My personal concerns are my own mountain to climb, but they are nothing compared to what others are going through.
We hear numbers. Numbers of lives lost. Numbers of those injured. And after a while, it all fades into the background for most of us, but not for those who were a number. Not for the loved ones whose lives were lost. Not for the people who will live with their injuries for weeks, months or years to come. Not for the people who were there offering help and support, who had the blood of a stranger on their hands as they tried to comfort someone in need. For them, this will not fade into the background. It will always be there, and I can only hope with all my heart that somehow, somewhere, there is comfort and love to be found for all of them, through all of this.
I couldn’t turn it off, and of course, the news kept coming. Then I heard that one of the fatalities was a young child.
I can’t go there. I just can’t.
I have to find something else to focus on. So, like Mr. Rogers said, I look for the helpers. Because in all that brutality, in all that destruction, in all the blood and confusion and fear, there was still something so achingly beautiful unfolding as I watched the unending news coverage. It was in the people who ran towards the smoke and debris, to help whomever they could. It was the outstretched hands and tourniquets applied and heads stroked and the words of comfort whispered to strangers saying, “You’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.” Because when the most awful things happen, the most loving gestures often follow. And the beauty of humanity starts to shine brighter than the flash from any explosion. And people act like people. Not like dollar signs or lines on a map or political affiliations. They are, quite simply, there for each other. And that makes all the difference.