The Boston Marathon bombings are still running through my head and heart.
I know why my heart can’t seem to let go—it’s because of the many connections I have to the race and the area.
I grew up in New England and once again live 52 miles from the Prudential Center where the race ends. I used to be baffled and amazed by the marathoners when I was younger and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to put his or her body through the agony of running 26.2 miles. As a teenager, I would throw up after running the fitness mile during the first week of football practice, only later to be amazed that I could run 26.2 miles myself and enjoy it. Running became my avocation that led to my qualifying and completing the Boston Marathon in 1982.
Today, each of the stories of the victims inspires and disturbs me, especially disturbing is that of eight-year-old Martin Richard who was waiting with his family to see his dad finish. It awakened memories of my daughters waiting to catch a glimpse of me crossing the finish line and to share in my relief and excitement.
Even today weeks after the bombing there continues to be an outpouring of support, compassion, and empathy from everyone across the country, which has been a healing balm for the psychic trauma for all those affected. This coming together has helped families and friends to regain balance, hope, and faith in the reality that the human spirit is truly meant for good and not evil.
I know it is also during these times when we individually and collectively call upon our resiliency to help us move beyond and transform our pain into a deeper commitment to live every moment with purpose. We know the standard phases: Life is short. Time is the least we have of. Don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today, because tomorrow may never come. And we would all be better served if we held these words not just as clichés, but also as the wisdom of being alive and living in a world where there are no guarantees.
In the midst of the chaos, immediately after the bombs exploded people, ordinary heroes responded. People there to celebrate life instantly began doing whatever they could to comfort and care for the victims. This passion to help continued throughout the day and into the week. Police and FBI put out requests for pictures, videos, and any bits of information that might be a piece to solving and preventing more chaos and tragedy. Phone lines and websites were flooded with residents sending pictures and videos and calling in information. While there were many factors that led to the death and capture of the brothers who committed this horrendous crime, it could not have ended so quickly without a community’s commitment to be part of the solution – to not accept that evil is stronger than good.
There are many lessons and insights that I continue to digest and try to make meaning of stemming from this event. The most important is, what will I do to not let the one life I have to escape without fully celebrating how scared it is?
I also think about our spirit of community—the compassion that people have when they allow their human nature to flow through their hearts and into their hands to hold those in need close. When there is a clear need or purpose and we see a way to contribute, we just act; we give whatever we can and we feel good about giving.
I wonder why leaders and organizations don’t believe in the goodness of the human spirit - the desire that lives in our hearts to be part of the solution not the problem.
Why do we manage by establishing rules to prevent a few from doing ill, all the while killing the spirit of the many more who want to be part of something and to contribute to the benefit of all? Why do leaders believe they are the ones ordained to solve organizational problems? Why do they often divide us by placing blame on one group or the other? The criminals who committed this terrible act were caught because of the thousands of onlookers who provided pieces to the puzzle. So can the folks on the shop floor. They know what’s wrong—you just have to invite them and ask, “What can we do to solve this problem?”
I recently had a conversation with a leader who experienced a crisis at his organization and was surprised at how everyone pitched in to do whatever it took to prevent the crisis from occurring. I asked, “Do you think there is any learning from this situation that could be applied to other issues you are challenged with?”
“It’s the difference between war and peace,” he told me. “The two situations are completely different.”
How many more bombings and crises do we have to go through before we trust that ordinary people—everyday workers—want to be part of the solution, not the problem?
The answer is simple: if we articulate a why everyone can share in and invite their participation, we can solve many of the issues challenging our organizations, communities, and even our planet.
Had the Boston Police Department said, “Stay out of our way! Let us professionals take care of the problem,” more chaos might have transpired and we still might be looking for the criminals. But instead they asked every single person in the city for help.
Let’s not let ego and fear kill the human spirit. If Boston can do it, surely we can too.