Boston was for me the city of many firsts. It was where I tested my independence from my parents, where I first fell in love and had my heart broken – twice, and where I first saw who I was and was going to be. Boston was also the city where I first experienced really ugly aspects of society. It was in Boston where I first experienced unapologetic racism, where I witnessed police brutality, and where I felt a city’s invisible borders, constructed to separate those who are deemed to be outsiders from the established few. My experiences in Boston were as extreme as its weather and clustered around two poles – either amazingly positive or depressingly negative.
When I left Boston for Washington, DC I felt no desire to ever see the Pru, Copley Square, Faneuil Hall, the Charles and the Public Gardens ever again. I was done with Boston. With time, I was able to appreciate my experiences there for what they were — life lessons. Since I left I learned to like Boston again and in my dreams I have gone back many times. Sadly, negative impressions from certain interactions with people and events remained in my mind.
The bombings at the Boston Marathon shook me to the core. I felt so sad. The marathon was one of those unique Boston events that I remember fondly and can appreciate more now as a new runner. Like everyone else I was glued to the television and wanted answers. Why would anyone want to deliberately hurt innocent people?
The beautiful acts of kindness and courage that occurred in Boston on that fateful day helped to take the sting from the wound that another act of terror has inflicted on us. I cried when I heard that people had run to the hospitals to give blood after they had run the entire marathon, and that others had stayed with victims until help arrived. I cried for the victims and their families. I also cried because perhaps the Boston I had known had changed.
But is that really what happened? Kind people and bad people are everywhere, in every city and in every town. All of us have the capacity to be kind or cruel at any given moment, and so we are – both kind and cruel – every single day. Acts of extreme cruelty from a few bring out acts of extreme kindness from the masses. That is what we have seen happen from every tragedy and it comforts us to comfort others. But, after time passes and routine returns we forget to be intentionally kind and we become unintentionally cruel when we are indifferent to the need of others. What will it take for intentional kindness to stick so that we always go the extra mile for a perfect stranger? What will it take for us to always act like we are united? When will we serve others because we see only similarities between us? When will meeting the needs of others be the norm? I wish I knew.
I pray for healing – physical, emotional and spiritual healing for the victims, the city of Boston, our nation, and humanity. For me personally, this tragedy has made me reflect about my own unintentional cruelty. I am grateful for the healing that is happening within me that will make me a more intentionally kind person and is allowing me to appreciate Boston in a whole new way.