‘No more hurting people’ ~Martin Richard, age 8.
It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that evil rules the world. We have recently been bombarded with images of loss of life and limb at the hands of a couple of young men, and an explosion in a fertilizer plant which killed 14, including volunteer fire fighters (yes, volunteer). It is tempting to focus only on the potential for random and cruel acts of violence that unexpectedly destroy our plans and dreams.
But it is important to look at the full picture. Amidst the onslaught of repeated loops of smoke and shrapnel on the TV; behind the noisy rhetoric of the media hypothesizing and reiterating and filling time; there were some beautiful stories of the instinctive goodness of people. Many of the marathon runners (after running 26 miles) and other spectators went immediately to donate blood. With no regard for blood borne illnesses, people on the street applied makeshift tourniquets to bleeding limbs, or cradled the heads of the injured in their laps while awaiting EMS personnel. The sight of people running towards the blast instead of away from it points to the inherent goodness of people. We may be jaded and cynical, ready to ascribe ulterior motives to the actions of others on a daily basis. But what was actually on display in Boston was the best of humanity. Which drowned out the worst of humanity.
From our vantage point we may wonder whether our own instincts would be as selfless. We hope that we too would be heroes, putting thoughts of our own safety aside. But it is not only in these moments of high drama that we may be called upon to demonstrate a largeness of spirit, a compassion that exceeds our normal self-centered-ness. It may be good for us to reflect for a moment on how easy it is to become self-absorbed and insular.
There is a need for us to become a kinder, more compassionate society. We need to show our children how to be bigger people. Many of us worship a God whose Son preached a message of loving our enemies, of turning the other cheek. The Bible tells the story of Jesus on the cross reaching out to the criminal who was being crucified next to him and telling him that he too could be forgiven and “…be with me in paradise”.
Yet when we are called upon to practice that same brand of compassion, we turn instead to hatred and revenge, wishing that the perpetrators could experience the same level of pain, suffering, and ultimately the death that they caused on the innocent bystanders. Is this the way to practice what we are taught? When we are cut off in traffic, do we shrug our shoulders with a smile, or do we plan to pay back, to teach our fellow drivers a lesson? Do we find ourselves getting angry at perceived slights and injustices, and hold on to that anger which is so damaging to us?
I read an interesting quote by Ian Percy which says “We judge others by their behavior. We judge ourselves by our intentions.” Often we are perplexed when others are hurt by our words, when no hurt was intended. We can practice compassion and heroism in our everyday life by being more thoughtful, by taking a breath before responding with anger and impatience, by giving others the benefit of the doubt.
On this Friday morning, let us plan to look for the good in situations, not the bad. Let us celebrate the beauty of the lives of those lost, instead of the ugly manner in which they died. Let us acknowledge that random, painful acts of violence and sudden loss will occur, but they only serve to remind us to appreciate what we have. We would not know how sweet life is, unless we were aware how everything can change in an instant. That ‘autoclapse’ can come along and slam you in your head, and in a moment your reality is completely shattered.
Make the most of today, appreciate all you have, and practice living a more forgiving and compassionate life today. You never know when you, or someone you love, could be the one in need of someone else’s forgiveness and compassion.
Have a wonderful Friday, family, and a great weekend.
One Love! One Boston Love! One World Love! We are all in it together.