Shanti Pax was launched on the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. I don’t want to relive that day or analyze the aftermath. Instead, I want to write about how we respond to traumatic events. But before I do, I want to tell the story of about Rita Jeptoo.
Rita Jeptoo from Eldoret, Kenya was the female winner of the 2013 Boston Marathon. Her first race in the U.S. was the 2006 Boston Marathon where she arrived late due to complications with her passport and was unable to preview the course. But she won anyway at 26 years old with a personal best. In 2013, now a mother, she won for the second time.
I want to congrate Rita and all the other athletes who competed on that day. Your victories were not overshadowed.
I often have a peculiar response to traumatic events: I am stoic. After years of working in intense environments and being exposed to the elements of human suffering, I sometimes detach emotionally to tragedy. But it wasn’t always this way.
When I started out as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania at 22 years old, my eyes twinkled with idealism and my emotions popped like corn in hot oil at the sight of a stray dog.
I recall the first time I walked through Bucharest on a dusty day in June 1998, seeing a gang of dirty street children swarming around the Gara de Nord train station, huffing paint and feral.[i] My eyes stung with tears at the sight and I wanted to give them everything I had, including the clothes off my back.
Two years later in 2000, as I prepared to return to the U.S., I was telling begging children asking me for less than a penny to buzz off. Throughout my time in Romania, I had been exposed to begging children on a daily basis, beaten down by the trials and tribulations of launching community projects, and taken advantage of. In two years, I had gone from ultra-idealist to ultra-cynic.
As the years have passed, I discovered that I could more effectively respond to crises being emotionally nonplussed (which also served as a self-defense mechanism). And this stoicism has been with me through the years during large scale tragedies, except in one area: my inner voice – which constantly nags me to get off my arse and do something.
But the bombings in Boston hit me hard — I was not stoic. My heart was heavy and I felt very, very sad. I could not reconcile that the targets were athletes at the finish line of a marathon. I knew that if we were reaching a point where marathon athletes were the target of random violence, there was a new urgency and imperative for us to act.
“Forgive them Father, they know not what they do.” – Jesus
In times like this, our initial emotional response is often to get angry, ask why, and seek justice. The problem is we don’t know what motivated two youths to commit such a heinous act. We know they came from a violent part of the world. We know today’s youth are exposed to countless acts of violence every day in their communities and on TV, movies, and video games. We know that people can be targets of brutal discrimination. There are countless motives, but the underlining emotion for engaging in a violent act is fear. These youths were holding on to a massive amount of fear that led them down the wrong path.
So how do we respond? We let go of our anger and reserve our emotional energy for forgiveness, sending love to the victims, and uniting to spread a message of love and peace.
And our most powerful response is: motivation to ACT.
And I’m challenging you to act right now. Here’s how:
ONE, if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to Shanti Pax. By doing this, you’re sending a message to yourself, the world, and the universe that you choose peace.
TWO, send love to the city of Boston. The video clip below is a fabulous song that I can’t get out of my head right now, called Dirty Water by The Standells (1966). If you listen to this song, you can’t help but feel love for Boston.
Love that dirty water and send all the loving energy you feel right now to greater Boston. Send it to the athletes, the victims, the families, the friends, and to anyone else you think may need it.
THREE and final, post a comment below! What was your initial emotional response to this tragedy and what is it now? How do you think we can best unite and take action in times of tragedy? What did you see in the aftermath that warmed your heart?
“Where there is hatred, let me sow Love.” – St.Francis of Assisi
In the face of violence we may feel powerless, but we do have the power to love, and the power to act, and the highest power possible: to act with love.
If you liked this post, please “like” it and share it with your friend. And subscribe to Shanti Pax to receive inspirational stories of peace with lessons you can apply to your life.
Remember, it’s the little changes we make in our daily life that brings greater peace to the whole.
[i] Romania was ruled for 24 years by a cult of personality, named Nicoalae Ceaușescu. After his execution in 1989 and the iron curtains were rolled open, Romania revealed an epidemic of orphaned children. Ceaușescu had outlawed contraception in 1966 to increase the workforce, so abandoned children started overloading the orphanages and eventually moved to the streets, creating the so-called “street children.”