To my future children:
While you may know me as the tubby, overbearing person who gave you life, today, I am nineteen. At nineteen, I still walk barefoot. I have a bleeding heart. I spend a lot of time talking with my friends and refreshing my Facebook.
And I live right outside of Boston, so yesterday’s bombings, emotionally and geographically, hit very close to home.
I heard about an hour after it happened. I was sitting in the Student Center, looking over old college yearbooks with a friend. Around 3:45, I got a text message from my boyfriend asking if I was alright.
– Yeah, I wrote back, why?
– Something happened at the marathon.
These are the moments you remember. I was nine years old, walking home from school, when I heard that two planes had flown into the World Trade Center. I was eating dinner with my family in the food court when I found out that America had declared war on Afghanistan. I was sitting on my bed in my dorm room when I heard about the Newtown shooting.
Maybe when thirty years have passed and we look at our history, yesterday will not make our list of national scars. Maybe other people won’t remember where they were when they heard. But I will. I was fifteen minutes from the bombings. I had spent all morning cheering for the marathon runners. My hand still stings from their high-fives.
There will be events, kids, that shock you on a national level. There will be stories that you share with your friends, decades later, about ‘where you were when you found out’. And there will be smaller stories, closer to home, that leave a mark on you that you can’t explain, or don’t want to. I am not going to make this terrible, horrific event about me or my story. It is not mine to tell, or talk about.
What I am going to do is talk to you about humanity.
I can’t imagine the things that will happen between now and the time that I bring you into the world. I can’t imagine the things you’ll see and learn about when you’re too young, or the events that make you cry in your dorm room when you’re nineteen. But I know that they will happen.
You will be told that there are more good than bad people, and maybe it will help. But the jarring, impossible thing about understanding these events- the bombings, the shootings- is that they affect and break so many more people than they are started by. Hearing the stories of couples reunited, or runners ripping their clothes apart to make tourniquets, will not erase the fact that there are children lying in a hospital with shrapnel wounds. It will not erase the death of an eight-year-old boy.
The fact is that evil is more potent than good. It will sting you and reach you more than the kindness of strangers. It will shock you more than the goodness around you, precisely because it is the exception.
The cold you feel when you hear the news; the cries you stifle because this is not your tragedy; the inability to fathom why; embrace them. That is your humanity, crying out. It is yelling that, despite the tragedies and losses that you have seen and suffered, there is still enough Impenetrable, Resilient Good in you to mourn. It is reminding you that you still have enough faith in the world to be shocked.
Hold on to that faith. Hold on to that Impenetrable, Resilient Good. No kindness or goodness can erase this agony, but they can remind you that as long as there are events to shock and hurt you, there will be people who feel called to action in their response. A single person or group cannot erase our collective Goodness as a whole.
Finally: I pray that in the time you read this, events like these will not automatically be used as ammunition for racism, intolerance, and xenophobia. But if they are, remember that the judgments you make before you’ve heard the facts say a lot more about you than about the people you’re blaming.
Remember that one person’s race, religion, or political doctrine does not allow them speak for those groups as a whole.
Remember that in light of events like these, we suffer as a global community, and that that community includes people of every background, creed, and ability.
Come out of a place of love and compassion, not cruelty and ignorance.
Remember your humanity.