Sunday, April 28, 2013

"What if you could go back in time and take all those hours of pain and darkness and replace them with something better? Like a Hawaiian sunset, or the Grand Canyon..Just, things that remind you of how beautiful the world can be?" --Gretchen Ross from Donnie Darko

Rewind Marathon Monday, April 2010. After many hours and miles of training, my little sister decided to participate in all 26.2 miles of Boston's marathon for the first time. I was a proud sister on that day and hoped that she would continue to participate, raising money for local charities. One year later, her goal was the same. The results that year, however, were different--a sore IT band had stopped her short of the finish line.

Maybe, it stopped her from participating in the years following. This year, my sister watched from her workplace in Newton.

It was her post on facebook that I noticed first. She could not believe what she was seeing. A piece of our home, terrorized by two bombs. Typically, a place where people race to celebrate their accomplishments instead became a horror scene, everyone fleeing from the finish line.

Three thousand miles away in San Diego, facebook allowed me to keep everyone close. I learned of friends running the race, a few miles out from the finish line when the bombs exploded. Friends working at the finish line, outside and in buildings close by. Friends taking pictures from the scene hours earlier, only to navigate away during the moments of terror. Friends of friends watching at a nearby restaurant, risking their safety to help innocent victims. 

I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that my sister, people that I knew, were safe. Many, though, were not. While I did not know them personally, I, along with the nation, became consumed with empathy...Our hearts aching, yet recognizing our ability more so than ever to unite through compassion. Sadly, it is during these moments of tragedy that people are brought closer together; on the other hand, others feel the need to propose additional threats, whether empty or carried out... just after we thought we were done with it all.... Most people feeding off love, others feeding off the fear. It is very easy to fear, but it is far more brave to release worry from your heart and trust that love conquers all.

A few hours before learning about the horror surrounding the city of Boston (located just forty-five short minutes from my childhood home) I finished reading the book, "Adu, my Grandfather Said, Climb a Tree and Look for the Light: The True Story of El Fadel Arbab, Survivor, Genocide in Darfur." Until my publishing company, Red Skies Publishing and author Lauren Kempton, introduced them to me, I had never heard of El-Fadel or Darfur. It occurred to me that these awful violent acts happen all over the world, all the time. While some of it is brought to our attention, a lot of it remains outside of our awareness... 

Sometimes we wonder, even if we do know about it, what can we do to stop it, so far away? In the midst of people's reactions on facebook, I found that one of my facebook acquaintances posted the same picture many were spreading around: the boat where the 19-year-old bomb suspect hid. Instead of making fun of the suspect for trying to flee in a boat out of water, Micah Daigle's picture referred to American drone strikes in Pakistan; something I had never heard about until now. Innocent men, women and children killed, in hopes of eliminating one or two bad seeds, thousands of miles from our doorsteps...So far away we never heard the explosions, let alone knew that they were even taking place (everyday!) How could it happen at our hands? The same hands of the nation consumed with empathy for the victims in Boston. Are there other ways, my friends, to offer a helping hand? Syria too reached out to Boston: "Boston bombings represent a sorrowful scene of what happens everyday in Syria. Do accept our condolences." --the Syrian Revolution KNRC Kafranbel. (Every day.)

It is when violence happens at our doorsteps that we are reminded we are not immune-- I truly believe though that violence does not have to happen. We must communicate. (Use our words, as taught to pre-schoolers)... Talk out our differences. Agree to disagree. Find common ground. Let go and love each other...With this crazy thing called the internet, our ability to reach out to others far away is stronger than ever before. Micah's one post led to over 11,000 shares, and about a dozen new Pakistani friends. However far away, we are always connected..

........Regardless of where we are, El-Fadel and Dr. Kempton remind us that we all see "the same sun, same moon, same stars"........

Mulling over the gravity of the situation, how the heartbreak hit so close to home, seeing everyone’s responses, both fearful and hopeful, I refuse to believe that our world is anything but a beautiful, happy, peaceful one...

Imagine pieces of our world: a orange-pink stretch of sky as the sun disappears below the horizon; the sound of waves crashing into the seashore, salt lacing the air; the smell of fresh flowers in all bright colors; a bird's song catching the wind; freshly fallen snow dazzling bare trees; mountains so tall they touch the sky; a tree swaying in the breeze; stars dotting a night sky; the song of a violin lighting up a room. Whether it a photograph, the view out our window, a tune playing on our radio, or existing in our imagination, if we stop for a moment and remind ourselves of all things beautiful which exist simply, peacefully in our world, perhaps we too can exist in a similar way? 

Despite all of the tragedy, if we stick together, remain strong, and most importantly, spread the love, we will be ignoring exactly what the people who start of all this violence wish to instill in us..Ironically, peace can never be “fought for.” Not to be cliche, but we must kill all those angry people with kindness. We must release our hate, anger, worry, and our differences, and replace them with all of the good things--Unconditional love, respect, trust, acceptance, and caring for one another. Not just for friends and family, but for everyone. And we must never lose hope that someday, maybe in ten years, or a long, long, long time from now, love will be enough.

 "My goal in the work I do now is to change the lives of my listeners by teaching them to care enough about people and events around our world that they will want to contest and stand up when they learn of genocides and other forms of oppression. I want them to understand that in the developed world, we have it within our power to affect events anywhere else, at any time. I want them to see that it is possible to halt such events and perhaps even someday to prevent them. I want them to understand that even little people can accomplish very big things." -- El-Fadel Arbab, Dr. Lauren Kempton

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