Grappling with Boston (and Newtown)
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Like most of you, I'm sure, I've been following this past week's drama in Boston with intense interest. I think that because I've been doing some distance running in the past few years, and can claim at least a degree of relationship to the family of runners, with some understanding of what the process of training for and setting out to do a long race means, that the bombing of the Boston Marathon hit me much more directly than it would have before.
It also struck me that the last two major tragedies/acts of terror that we have experienced in the past four months - the shootings in Newtown, CT and the bombing of the Boston Marathon - both affected me deeply for the reason that they hit at exactly my own personal sense of vocation (teaching) and - what's the right term? - my evolving long-term identity as a runner, and all that implies - a dedicated, disciplined, long-term pursuit of personal fitness and well-being through distance running. This is for my own personal health, my well being, and my emotional joy - which makes me a better partner to others in all sorts of ways. So this is also a form of vocation, I think. In any case, you are getting the point -- in a way, I could see myself in the teachers and the runners who were affected in the two incidents. Both of these tragedies struck me at an unexpectedly personal level.
So how to turn evil into something life-giving?
Shortly after the Newtown shooting, as I was reading the reports of the teachers who died trying to protect the kids under their care, I literally heard an inner voice saying that I could honor their legacy by (excuse the language) deciding to "teach my A** off." And I have decided to make this part of who I am, and remind myself of this decision regularly when I get tired or busy and teaching might seem like just another thing to do to earn a paycheck. It does help me stay focused and dedicated to giving my best to my students.
I suppose the logical answer would be to vow to "run my A** off." And I may just do that. Certainly I'll be using this as inspiration to keep running, keep challenging myself, keep spreading the running gospel. But I think my thoughts are going a bit more abstract. Let me explain. On Thursday evening (just hours before all hell broke loose in Watertown) I heard the "On Point" radio program on NPR where they were interviewing various prominent Bostonians about their reactions to the bombings. One was the co-host of "Click and Clack," the popular car-repair call-in show, Ray Magliozzi, who when asked about drawing lessons from the bombing, at first said "I have no idea" (kudos for honesty), but then pointed to the first responders who ran into the sites of the two bomb blasts to tend to the victims and reestablish control over a very frightening and confused situation. Ray's big point was that the responders did not know at the time whether there were going to be more explosions, but still had the courage, strength of mind and spirit, and commitment to the people they were called to serve and protect to press forward and throw themselves into an absolutely terrifying situation to tend to badly wounded, extremely frightened people, when everyone was running away, or just gaping in horror. They wound up saving, healing, and comforting many, many people. He went on to reflect that if we all could similarly find the courage to move forward, to confront and deal with the problem/danger instead of running away from it, in the many circumstances we all face in real life - relationships, work, health issues for body, mind, and spirit, the well-being of family, friends, neighbors, or strangers - then that would be an appropriate way to draw good out of the tragedy. And think of the cumulative impact if more people did this! I liked that thought a lot, and I think I will make that my way to build off of Boston in my own life. I'm sure there will be many opportunities to turn this thought into reality.
I'd be interested to know how people from the Spark community are dealing with Boston, and applying it to real life.
God bless the good citizens of Boston, the families of all affected directly and indirectly, and the runners from everywhere in the world.