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.  

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