Someone on the news talked about how special Patriots Day is in Boston—and now it’s special in a way that no one wants. In Boston, Patriots Day is a special day. While most of the rest of the country is back to work on a typical April Monday, Boston comes alive with celebration. Sure, Maine and the rest of Massachusetts also observe Patriots Day and take it as a holiday. But, in Boston it is decidedly different. It’s a big party.
For several years when we lived in Cambridge, my husband and I had friends who lived along the Marathon route in Brookline and every year these friends hosted a Marathon gathering. We spent a lot of time outside at that annual event, cheering on the runners—the fastest, elite runners first, but then the other runners too, the ones who would get no television coverage. At best, they would probably beam when they found their name listed among the finishers of the race, in tiny print in the newspaper. Those runners might not have received much press coverage, but they were cheered on. It’s one of the amazing these about the Boston Marathon—that normal people run, and normal people stay by the side of the road and cheer them on, sometimes long after most people, and certainly the media, have stopped paying attention.
One of the first things that struck me, when I found out about the bombing on Monday, was that it took place so far into the race, when only the “normal” people would be finishing the race, the people whose only glory would be accomplishing a personal goal. And, on the sidelines were other normal people, cheering on friends and family, and strangers too. Because that’s what you do during the Boston Marathon when you are in Boston.
I find myself weary—weary about another act of senseless violence, and weary that it was not the only act of senseless violence on Monday (in Iraq alone, 55 people were killed in bomb attacks on Monday and over 200 were wounded), and weary about the constant meaningless chatter on the news, and even weary about the defiant pronouncements that the Marathon will go on next year (of course it will).
The horrible event on Monday provides lots of reasons for hope, with so many people jumping into action in so many different ways to help and respond. On balance, it seems that the goodness of humanity outweighs the badness. It is here that I believe we must be most vigilant. We must remain compassionate, hopeful, loving. We cannot allow evil acts to drag us down into a place of fear and hatred.
Frederick Buechner once offered this perspective on the world: “Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” (Beyond Words: Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith)
I would add: a) don’t be full of hatred, and b) don’t get weary.
Today, I’m trying very hard—and praying for the grace and strength that I need.