facing an aftermath with new grammar

You’ve read the headlines.

Not just the ones that break our hearts, but the ones that enlarge our hearts.

Our world became fragile again when we heard about the Boston explosion, and we cringed when we learned an 8-year old boy became its third fatality.

There are no words for that.

Yet somehow we were strangely encouraged when we saw how many people ran into the smoking chaos after the blast.

We cheered when Twitter posts shared how runners who crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon kept running to the hospital to donate blood.

The world took note of the District Attorney’s Office Braveheart-esque declaration, “Moments like these, terrible as they are, don’t show our weakness. They show our strength.”

Individual acts, big and small, can overcome fear and reveal Light in times of great darkness.

There is also something about the aftermath of a tragedy that gives us a desire for new grammar.

For a brief moment, virtually everyone online paused. Instead of recycling more pictures of cats waterskiing or posting our self-righteous outrage about the latest thing we didn’t like about someone else, we looked for something deeper.

Apparently, we found it in Mr. Rogers… yes, that Mr. Rogers.

Facebook was flooded with a quote Fred Rogers said years ago:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.”
What if we could live like this all the time? What if instead of living with outrage about what we find wrong, we engaged what was right from the get-go?

Most days we’re searching Starbucks cups, organic juice bottles or Chinese buffet fortune cookies for a jaunty manifesto to live our day by. Maybe your desk calendar spouts a daily quote or you regularly check your horoscope for advice from a bull or scorpion.

I wonder if we’re so distracted with all these surface-level options that we forget what it means to be deeply attentive.

Psalm 46:10 challenges, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Our hurdle is we can post a personal thought online that’s immediately met with a global audience. Facebook posts and groups can quickly devolve into a Tazmanian Devil-like mob of ranting. Even local “Letters to the Editor” often become more about stomping our feet at others than dialoguing.

We become people looking to say something versus actually becoming people who have something to say.

The aftermath of a tragedy, be it personal, local, national or global, gives us an excuse to mature in how we think and speak. You realize policemen are “heroes” instead of “someone looking to bust me.” Firemen are finally thanked for their everyday, unnoticed volunteerism because you realize when you need them they’re actually there.

Pardon the interruption, but again… why can’t we live this way more often?

I ask because the opposite observation is also true. We often assume we’re the “rescue workers” of everything from local matters to family tensions, when in reality we’re just causing more explosions.

Life is going to continue to squeeze us. Pain will happen, and what we store up in us will spill out of us. Part of the gap we see in the world tracks back to a gap inside of many of us.

Try this: Write down what you hope would come out of you in a tragic moment, then get around people and ideals that will nurture that. Make sure it’s a legitimate commitment, though - even the strongest anchor can’t serve you if you’re only loosely connected to it.

You can waste your breath complaining about life, or bring life into this world until your dying breath.

P.S. This is 8-year-old Martin Richard who died at he Boston Marathon waiting to greet his father.

I could try to say something profound here, such as Martin Richard was embraced and greeted by his heavenly Father that day instead... but I think I'm just going to weep over this for now.

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