Honoring a Unique Moment After the Boston Attack

All of us took a hit yesterday at the Boston Marathon.  A normal annual part of the fabric of our life here in the U.S. was brutally attacked by some demented bomber. All of our memories of and future references to the Boston Marathon were altered for good with those blasts yesterday.
Obviously this was a dark moment in our collective lives even if we have no interest in marathons.  Something else besides our shock and upset seems to have come into our lives as well that is worth noticing.  I think that today I have been seeing a greater civility or caring emerge with the people I encounter on the streets. I wonder if you notice something like this too?  I’ll say more.

We are all so wired up and connected to digital gadgets and devices that have us more and more flooded with input at almost all hours.  While we are so increasingly connected to these various media sources I believe that there is a sort of isolating from other people going on at the same time.  Besides isolating in this digital busyness our reading, watching and listening habits is tending to have us fall into seeing ourselves in a variety of groups, tribes or clubs.  On the political side we get herded into labels like liberal, conservative, progressive Blue State or Red State people.  We take on labels of what we like such as jazz people, punk people, rapers, heavy metal, folk or classical fans.  We may have come to see ourselves by any of many different labels from fashion styles, or types of cars, motorcycles or bicycles.  I think all our digital busyness and the labels we adopt have had us separate from the people right around us as well as our friends and family.

When a terrible attack takes place as it did for us yesterday in Boston our safe assumptions and comfortable wrappers of identity get jarred and the pace of our lives slows down a notch.  After the hit we took yesterday I think I am seeing a space of openness and greater kindness and civility open up on the streets with people today.  I’ll tell you what has me thinking about this.

I am a walker and I am a talker too.  I live in a really beautiful area right by the ocean where a lot of people come to work out, run, stretch as well as a fair amount of people walking their dogs.  It is pretty common for me to say “hi”, “good morning” or even “howdy” to people I encounter along my daily walks if they look halfway open or friendly.  Today as I got started on my walk I saw a guy I have seen for years walking his dog toward me.  I have greeted this guy a lot of times in the past but almost never with any response at all other than to look the other way.  I suspect he is just a very shy person.  Today he looked me in the eye and wished me a good day.  That was a stunner and a nice one because it was so out of character for this guy with the dog.

I was not in the U.S. when the 9/11 attacks took place. I was at the Tower of London when I first got word, but I was sure the smart-alack “Beefeater” tour guide was joking when told us of the attack and then went right into his jokes pointing at where Anne Boleyn had her head cut off.  Later when I found out that the Beefeater was not joking about the World Trade Center everything changed in a big way.  The following day and days after that were a special time there in London.  People were so nice, so caring, so much the great hosts, going out of their way to be helpful, caring that I almost did not want to head home on my already scheduled flight.  I heard that this space of great civility and caring between strangers on the streets was very much the same here at home in the USA.  I have heard it called the 9/12 effect, a time when personal barriers dropped a bit to let the common caring humanity of people came out. I think I saw this same sort of humane space open up with caring of and for strangers in the wake of the Northridge earthquake, when we were sleeping outside on the lawn median in front of my apartment building.  Each jolt of an after shock rocked peoples sense of reality deeply. The sound of crying and tears were common.  We were all in shock.  It seems that we all walk around with so many habits and assumptions about what it going on, how we look or how we are doing that we can hardly pay attention to people right around us.  When our assumptions about basic safety and wellbeing are rocked something that is better about us can be what comes out to soothe us and those around us.

I want to honor the space of civility and caring I think I am noticing around me. I think it shows something still very hard wired into us as people; the capacity to connect and show care for people around us even if we have never met previously. The common stories of people helping or taking care of the injured or the dislocated runners in Boston is a great part of us as people and something to notice and to honor and celebrate.  Does it take a tragic attack or earthquake to bring this natural caring out of us or can we unhook from all the screens that suck our attention, time and energy away from being the natural caring people we can all be? While it may be a challenge to unhook from the screens to be more of our better selves it may also be that this special time of caring connection is not enough to get us to loosen the grip of the devices that call us to tune into them and tune out of connecting to the people around us.   The book “Crazy Busy” by Dr. Edward Hallowell suggests that we would all be wise to let lose of those tantalizing devices a bit to get back to being who we really can be for ourselves and for the others near us.

What do you think? What have you noticed in the way that you and those you come in contact with are in these few days after the Boston attack?  We are not all really so far apart from each other if we would only notice.

 

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