It happened again—something horrible that on one hand, shakes my belief in humanity, and on the other hand, bolsters it. I think it’s horrible, and so sad, so tragic. I am thankful I don’t know anyone directly involved, though Boston is less than two hours from where I live. I’ve shed more than a few tears for those killed and injured, those frightened, brave individuals who endured yesterday’s chaos. I cannot even begin to imagine how frightening it must be to have something like this happen so that it directly affects your life.
Yesterday, days like 9/11 and the Newtown, Columbine and Aurora shootings came to mind. There have been other tragic events of course, but those are the four which stick out most in my memory (not to downplay any other event or the suffering that has followed). The lack of compassion for the lives of others is the most shocking. The thought of the innocent people who were killed—what might those who died in yesterday’s attack have done in their lives if not cut short? Our own mortality as humans seems so sharp in the aftershock of events such as these.
The president said something yesterday which was both uplifting and bothersome. I don’t have the exact words but he said something to the effect of Americans supporting one another in this tragedy. It’s uplifting because it’s true—as a people, we are generally pretty good at shows of support for one another (there have been some scenarios that could have been met better but overall I think this is true). But the bothersome part is this—why does it take a tragedy for us to show this level of compassion? Perhaps there would be fewer tragedies if we were compassionate and kind more often.
Of course, there will always be those wishing to cause harm to others. My point is that it shouldn’t take a horrible event for us to realize there are important, intangible elements of life that we should acknowledge more readily. Tell the people you love that you love them. Don’t wait to try for your goals in life. Don’t wait to be a better person. My Sensei frequently reminds all of his students that we shouldn’t wait to train with excellence. That applies to all of life—don’t wait for the next tragedy to be the person you want to be. Eventually we all run out of chances.
So what’s the uplifting part in all of this? The fact that people do have the capacity for compassion and bravery fills this American with hope. Though I know none of them personally, I am so proud of all of the first responders and other individuals who, despite the fear that must have been coursing through them, met this situation to help those in need. Those who lost limbs. Those who lost lives. Those who lost loved ones. That compassion, that bravery—that is what we all need to try to embody every day.
We cannot control others or stop bad people from doing bad things to others or ourselves. All we can do is decide how we will act toward others in those situations, and in our everyday lives. Our understanding that we are mortal is both a great and frightening thing—no one wants to think about not living anymore, but we have the ability to adapt and make our lives, and the lives of those around us, better.
Do something nice for someone today—not because it will earn you good karma or favor, but because you genuinely want to do make that person’s day better.