As we all struggle with the ever present question, "Why?" at the tragedies in Boston and Texas last week, we recognize the dissonance between those who miraculously escaped injury and those who sadly didn't. While we will probably never understand the why of what motivates others to do harm, Albert Einstein's words, "Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding," challenges us to summon within ourselves and the global community a will to comprehend. This month our native Bostonian, Joan, reflects on these events and a call to faith and understanding.
May you all stay safe.
Joan, Katie and Meb
Fear, Anger, Relief, Compassion…Exhaustion…a week of conflicted emotions…
I am a Boston girl and when I am tired, I can PAAK the CAAH with the best of them. April vacation week with its kickoff Marathon Monday is an integral part of my childhood lexicon. Patriots Day is full of tradition, 'Listen my children and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere' and the 'shot heard 'round the world' that signaled the beginning of our Revolutionary War. You can't attend Boston College as I did and not be part of the masses cheering on the runners as they crest Heartbreak Hill for their first sight of the Prudential Tower and the final five miles to the finish line. Last Monday, I knew my BC daughter was among the throng, cheering on the runners near the finish line...
Each night since then as I have gone to bed, a cacophony of thoughts has bombarded my consciousness. Relief that my friends and family are really safe...some so close to the blasts and saved through sheer luck. Sadness at the path that lies ahead for so many injured...visualizing the Emergency Department where I had spent a day a few months ago, teaming with victims and reliving my own ambulance ride in Boston, thinking about those who respond seemingly effortlessly to help others. Pride in having played an early role in defining Boston's EMS system - my first job after graduate school. Horror at the thought of the lives that were lost and those that have been changed forever. Incomprehension of a wayward kid drowning in a pool of his own blood..And that's just Boston. The explosion of the fertilizer plant in Texas, the spree of car bombs in Baghdad...the uncertainty we all face...its seems overwhelming. As the calls and emails came in checking on the whereabouts of my Boston family, I was touched by the messages of concern; the outpouring of caring from people around the globe was an unexpected gift.
I now have a new mantra, Be Not Afraid. So easy to say (or to sing) and a phrase I have used mindlessly so many times with my children or to those facing illness and trauma letting them know they are not alone. And yet in this week where nearly all of us have tasted fear, any feeling of peace has been impossible for most of us to achieve. Ironically, when I think of fear, it's bravery that comes to mind. At one of the California Women's conferences, Maria Shriver made a comment about bravery that resonated with me. She said you can't be brave unless you have first been afraid. The experience of fear is different for each of us and is part of who we are. It astounds me that some people like jumping out of planes, that Shawn White actually enjoys sending his snowboard high into the sky soaring about the walls of the half pipe. And yet, some of us are afraid of standing up in a room and speaking out, others of driving, or sharing our stories or dreams with each other. Regardless of where we are on this continuum, I have come to believe we are united in our fear of the unknown...the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely...not here, not now, no way. The events last week have brought all of this closer: the improbable could happen right here, right now.
The question is not just how, but how do we act: conquer our fear, advance our understanding, face the unknown? It is a call to action. We have to be vigilant as the subway signs in NYC tell us; we cannot afford to wallow in helplessness and despair...the victims deserve better than that. Four days before the marathon, Lee Woodruff commented during a presentation at BC that things look better with faith. For me, it is a poignant reminder. As I Skyped into a book club meeting in a suburb of New York the night of the marathon, the conversation turned to skepticism, faith and doubt. I was struck by the manner in which the women supported each other in their comments and in their friendship, as they explored the difficult questions of life. It reminded me, once again, that I don't have to have all of the answers, maybe I can just be thankful, maybe I can try to practice forgiveness. It's the connection we heard about or saw on TV in the heroic acts or the simple random acts of kindness where we can find meaning and hope. So take action. Hug someone today...tell someone you care, that you appreciate them...take a moment (maybe even two or three) and look at the beauty that surrounds you: a flower, a smile...do something for someone else...It's good for them and it's good for all of us. It's a way to cope and to regain some of the strength we lost last week as we look to make the future brighter and be ready for 'the next thing that comes along.' (Joan)
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