There is something almost indescribable about tragedies and how we respond to them. Certain images of 9/11 have been seared in our brains, and, no doubt, have touched our hearts deeply. The images of the firemen rushing into the twin towers just before the buildings fell into a pile of rubble were simply abhorrent. And truly we will never be the same.
And now just a few weeks ago the surprising sights and sounds of exploding bombs near the finish line of this year’s Boston Marathon have arrested our attention as we tried to get our head around the fact that anyone could even consider doing such a senseless thing!
From a beautiful, often inspiring sporting event involving some heroic runners, we were forced to witness this unbelievable act of violence in our own city of Boston, perhaps involving people we knew, in a place we may have frequented at one time or another. And we are led to ask: Why?!
Albert Einstein once said: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.” Or as my mother was wont to say, with a knowing smile: “You know, unfortunately the stupid people are not all locked up. Some of them I work with.”
Our Common Bond
There is at the core of our being a place where we are not parents or children, old or young – we are just human beings. This we have in common. From that interior secret place we respond instantly and often selflessly to the tragedies that life gives us. We don’t think; we just respond – with a tear, with repulsion, with a prayer, with a yearning to do something for the unfortunate people involved. From our heart of hearts we reach out simply because “someone needs to.
In the stories we have heard about those who instantly picked up the wounded near the Boston Marathon finish line and brought them unhesitatingly to nearby Medical stations, we can only stand in awe and applaud. And rejoice!
There is something mysterious that binds us humans together at tragic moments like this, that show everyone who we truly are. Thank God, there is an indomitable spirit that mysteriously rises to meet a moment of need of another with our open hands and hearts. We call this common bond God’s “indwelling spirit” that will not allow someone in pain to be left alone, unaided.
This shared quality is truly “the best of who we are” as human beings. It seems to come in all sizes and shapes, all ages and ethnic groups, all languages and all states of belief – or unbelief. Those people most in touch with that inner core instantly let it take hold of them and they respond with the instant heroism of a first responder, with the generosity of a good Samaritan, with the tenderness and love of a God who loves us more than we love ourselves.
I have seen this quality in couples who love each other so totally that they “complete” each other, in the best sense of the word. Or in families who have suffered the loss of a loved one and who comfort us when we tearfully meet them at the wake. Or a patient we visit in the hospital who lifts up our spirits as we come with our flowers to cheer them up.
Our hearts grieve deeply for the loss of everyone who died so instantly, so helplessly. We yearn for answers that are so hard to come by. All this says a lot about us poor, upset people who want to do something to reach out and help, to remember, to eliminate at least a little suffering.
Less of Me, More of God
I conclude with a song which expresses for me my hope for all of us human beings who are called at times to be truly heroic and think more of others and a little “Less of Me” (by Glen Campbell).
Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder, to the faults of those about me, let me praise a little more. Let me be when I am weary, just a little bit more cheery; think a little more of others, and a little less of me.
Let me be a little braver when temptation bids me waver; let me strive a little harder to be all that I should be. Let me be a little meeker with the brother that is weaker; let me think more of my neighbor and a little less of me.
Let me be when I am weary just a little bit more cheery; let me serve a little better those that I am strivin' for. Let me be a little meeker with the (sister) that is weaker; think a little more of others and a little less of me.
To which I add my own, “Amen.”