Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Helpers

Social media, television channels, radio broadcasts & cell phone conversations... everyone is buzzing in hushed, shocked tones about what happened yesterday in Boston.  It's tempting to criticize the media for excessive coverage, but I think everyone is just trying to understand a situation that, like so many others before it, it not able to be understood but maybe there is healing in the sharing of grief, of confusion and disbelief.

The Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and it's part of the fabric of the city of Boston, a cause for celebration and a culmination of the effort and will power required to push your body to run 26.21875 miles.  On "Marathon Monday" no one could have predicted the tragic events that unfolded.  Like Columbine, the WTC attacks, the Newtown school shootings and so many other senseless acts of unspeakable cruelty, we were left in stunned silence to try and comprehend why anyone would choose to plan and carry out such a cowardly act of violence against innocent, unsuspecting fellow human beings.

And like those other tragic events, heroes rise up and cast aside thoughts of their own safety to help the helpless, carry the wounded, wrap arms around suffering shoulders, serving as shining examples of what humanity is capable of in the face of the darkest of times.  These are the helpers, these are the ones we need to look for, to strive to be like.

I hope that if I were ever faced with a situation like this one, I would have the courage to be brave, to think not of myself but of those in need, to be a helper, one who chooses strength over weakness.  Desperate times call for hopeful measures, it's a time to think of those everyday, ordinary heroes and uplift their stories.  There is meaning in the meaningless when we see what good, true, honest and ordinary people are capable of.

People like these:

Photo Credit: Kylie Atwood/CBS News

John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty

photo credit: Charles Krupa/AP

This morning I was reading about Carlos Arrendondo a modern day hero in a cowboy hat, quickly becoming an icon of the heroes who emerged yesterday.  His story inspires, how he came to the marathon to honor his two sons, one who died serving our country and the other from the heartache of losing his brother, their proud father wearing buttons of their photographs on his shirt and handing out 199 American flags, the 200th one covered in blood, how he had no thought of his own safety and spent hours following the bombings helping perfect strangers.  

There are so many inspiring stories like his, like the two Bible carrying Lutheran pastors offering comfort to those walking on Commonwealth, the countless standing in lines donating blood, strangers opening their homes and hearts to offer food, shelter and companionship to those in need.  Acts of altruism abound and remind us who we are as a people, as a nation, when we need to unite for the common good. 

These are the images that I cling to in times of senseless violence.  These are the people I will think about in the coming days, when unfortunately the hazy feeling of hope sometimes falters, a victim cast aside in the hunt for blame, the temptation of accusation, based on religion, country of origin, or color of skin.  It's happened all too often before, and it's not because people are inherently bad, it's a grief stricken way to find purpose, to feel like something is being done, that justice is being served.  I truly believe that we are better than that, we have to be.  If only we could hold on to the true spirit of community, rallying together as a collective we, not as "us" and "them".  I earnestly pray that in the coming days, during the search for answers, we can think with our heads, and our hearts and avoid the scapegoating, blame and accusations that have arisen in the past following tragic events.  Whoever was responsible will be found and will suffer the consequences for this cowardly act, so we don't need to punish those who share only our grief, not our blame.  
I think we should all make a vow to be "the helpers", not just on days like today, but everyday, in our sleepy mall town communities and booming, bustling cities.  

Monday, April 15, 2013

Everyday Enchantment

A million years ago, or at least it seemed like it was that long ago when I was a high schooler, I was a camp counselor every summer, soaking up the rays of the sun with ragtag roaming groups of half wild, drunk on summer little kids.  Heaven.  I loved working at summer camp like it was a religion, if that could be my "grown up" job I would be set for life, it's kind of like teaching without the standardized testing and pressure to make kids perform.  Don't get me wrong, I love teaching, it's who I am, but maybe I've become a bit jaded during this crazy era of "Blame the Teacher" and ridiculous expectations that don't consider real life children~ their hopes, their dreams, their very selves.  I think it's gotten harder to accept now that I have a little one of my own.  He will never be a test score to me, nor will I ever care what a sheet of pencil-filled bubbles tells me about him.  Creak... climbing off my soapbox, I digress...

So, summer camp.  I remember during orientation before camp began we would get a job description which included a list of requirements.  Think along the lines of "willing and able to be outside all day, supervise and care for large groups of children, etc..."

Fast forward to now.  Will is 9 months old.  How did that happen?  To think I carried this tiny growing person inside of me for 9 months (+ because little man decided to come when he was darn good and ready!) and now he has been here with us for that same amount of time.  It's hard to wrap my head around.  I can still picture him as our little tree frog infant, curled into the most impossibly tiny bundle on my chest, sleeping the afternoon away while I stared at him, incredulous at the fact that he was mine, all mine.  Now we have a cheerio crazed, puppy terrorizing, crawling, climbing action verb of a little boy.  While watching him tease his pups this morning, all drooly giggles and sideways grins, I was thinking about all the things I've done during my life and how this "job" of staying at home compares.
It's simple.
Being a mom is the best thing that ever happened to me, I say that knowing how cliche it sounds, but I just don't care.
Nothing compares with this.

I laughed, thinking of summer camp, and wondered what a job requirement list might look like to take care of a William.  This is what I came up with:

We just returned from our big 9 month well child appointment at the pediatrician's and all is great, terrific actually since there were no shots this time, not that Will minds, but it makes my heart sink.  That tiny tree frog I referenced earlier is now 20 lbs, 13 ounces and 28 inches of "Wild Bill" as the veterinarian likes to call him when we bring in the pups.  He is the world and he reaches out to explore it at every moment, breathe it in, touch it, feel it and taste it.  I think we are raising the boy of our dreams, one who sees the wonder in a tiny ladybug crawling across the wooden floorboards (and then tries to eat it, protein?) and one who revels in the outside world, becoming quiet and contemplative staring at the ripples in our spring time pond and oohing as the breeze tickles his whispy hair.  I love this child.

  Mama climbing, my favorite sport, well... that and losing my socks!  

 It's IMPOSSIBLE to get him to look at the camera when there are way more interesting things, like emerald shoots popping up through squishy spring soil.

Ooh, bark feels neat mama! Can I eat it?

I think I need to rephrase something I wrote earlier in this post.  Summer camp was fun and I loved it, but the "grown up job" that most suits me is being a mama.  Like lots of families, we've had tough decisions to make lately and one of those is that I am returning to teach next fall, where and in what capacity remains to be seen.  It's sad that mothers and families don't get to choose what happens sometimes.  The one good side, if you could call it that, is that the knowledge of the precious days I have before going back to work keep me present in these magical everyday moments with William.  

I won't miss the everyday enchantment, I'll be a grateful audience to the beauty in the grasp of budding lilac leaves within a tiny palm, the feel of an open-mouthed drooly kiss on my cheek~ part lips, part teeth~ all love.  During these priceless days I will be cherishing the warm weight of a bedtime bundle, swaying to lullabies in the soft light of the nursery.  The soundtrack of our daylight hours plays the laughter and babbles of a little boy with eyes of a mysterious color, blended shades of brown, green and blue.    

Life is beautiful.

I was thinking this morning about last night's writing.  As I typed this post, I was curled up on the couch with my laptop and a quilt enjoying the peace that comes with a sleeping baby.  This morning, I am sporting the token messy bun of moms with no time for themselves, ratty old sweatpants from my high school ice hockey days, the crocs I used as "town shoes" while hiking the Appalachian Trail, and a fleece pullover with Rorschach sweet potato & mango designs, left behind from Will's breakfast.  Little Mr. was a fierce nap fighter and it took forever to get him down, then the dogs crashed through the house wrestling and woke him up... (insert swear under your breath here) so we started again and although I tried, I am sure frustration seeped into my singing of please-go-to-sleep lullabies.  My life isn't picture perfect at all moments, it certainly is beautiful, but it's also REAL.