Some Thoughts on Humanity

I was in the middle of a nonstop crazy workday yesterday (that’s Monday for you) when I got this text from my mother-in-law: “Tara finished race.  We were in lobby with her when something happened at finish line.  We are all in room safe.”  I had no idea what she was talking about.  Safe from what?  What happened at the finish line?  I tried calling but couldn’t get through.  Of course, I only had to get online for a few seconds to figure it out.  The explosions at the Boston Marathon flooded every news site and social media channel. 

I’m admittedly a pretty emotional person.  When something horrific like this happens, my heart instantly breaks and I become consumed by sympathy for those affected.  My husband jokes that I feel compassion to a fault (hi, I’m that person who carries bugs outside to safety), and he’s probably right. When a tragedy strikes and people are hurt, regardless of whether or not I have any personal attachment to the event, I am incapable of holding back tears.

This time though, my emotions hit a different level.  Because my sister-in-law Tara ran the Boston Marathon yesterday.  And my mother-in-law, father in-law, brother-in-law, nephew, and all of my nieces had flown in as well, and had cheered her on from the sidelines, not far from where those bombs went off.  She finished the race exactly 27 minutes before the first explosion.  In fact, they had just gotten back to their hotel, one block away, and were stepping into the elevator as it happened.  That picture you see above was taken of my little niece Lucy by my mother-in-law, directly in front of the explosion site, less than 24 hours beforehand.  Talk about putting things in perspective. 

As I write this, our family is safe and sound.  The streets surrounding their hotel are blocked off and filled with ambulances, police, and bomb squad vehicles.  It was an intensely scary day for them, but ultimately, they were safe.  Many other people’s family members were not. Events like this that hit close to home, combined with violent tragedies that take place all over the world every single day, are detestable and unfair.  They also make it incredibly difficult to feel any sort of hope for the human race. 

After my initial feelings of relief that our family members were okay, I began to feel overwhelmed with disappointment, and found myself questioning humanity as a whole.  How could anyone – regardless of fanatical religious beliefs or mental illness or just plain internal darkness – feel motivated to do something so disgusting?  Why do these nightmares keep happening?  Is society just intrinsically evil?  And seeing people point fingers and make accusatory assumptions driven by anger and ignorance certainly didn’t help my feelings.  How does blaming entire religions or nationalities for the acts of a small, misguided group accomplish anything aside from fueling the hatred?  Are today’s human beings so full of abhorrence and animosity that we’re eventually going to completely destroy ourselves?

Then something else happened.  While reading friends’ updates on Facebook regarding the tragedy, I noticed that my friend John had shared the status of comedian Patton Oswalt, which included this: “…the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.  So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’”  Shortly after I read this, I saw a video put out by the Boston Globe showing the explosion and the two minutes that followed.  It wasn’t graphic, but it was intense.  Marathon workers, police, reporters and bystanders instantly poured into the area where the bomb exploded to aid the victims.  People didn’t run away in fear; they ran toward the danger to help the injured.  

I think I had my biggest crying spell of the day after that (I told you I was emotional), but it wasn’t out of sadness.  Because it’s true you guys.  It just is.  For the few twisted, broken people who felt inclined to commit such an atrocious act, there are millions more who immediately upon hearing the news began sending out love or meditating or praying or posting positive messages on freaking Twitter and Facebook, regardless of whether or not they knew anyone involved.  And I’m talking people from all over the world, with different beliefs and skin colors and sexual preferences and ages and genders – just people who felt enough of a fundamental human bond with these strangers to genuinely care.  This is in addition to the hundreds onsite who instantly rushed to help – people who literally ran right into the bomb aftermath to carry out the wounded or comfort them until help arrived. 

Whether or not I’ve realized it before, this holds true for almost every massive tragedy that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime.  When I put aside my discouraged feelings toward humanity long enough to think rationally, I would estimate that a good 90% of human beings (maybe more) is comprised of the good guys.  It might not appear that way at first thought, but if you really focus on population and numbers and statistics, it’s the truth.  The good do outnumber the bad.  By a lot.  That means that humanity – despite our differences in politics or religion or musical taste – isn’t evil by default.  Yes, there will always be those who carry around some deep-seated (and incredibly irrational) loathing of other humans who they declare to be ‘different’ than themselves.  But I think that even those people would, for the most part, drop their ignorance in a disaster to help out other humans.  Because beneath a surface covered in dust and doubt, we’re on the same team, and we’re here for one another when the shit hits the fan.  And knowing that is a real faith-restorer, if you ask me.

I originally had a fun, lighthearted post scheduled for today, but I just couldn’t stay focused as I worked on it.  My mind kept revisiting the day’s events, and eventually I felt like I needed to say something here.  I appreciate you reading my ramblings.  Let’s all continue to send good thoughts toward Boston, and to everywhere in the world affected by senseless acts of violence.  Let’s also act out in kindness and compassion in our everyday lives. We’re all on this earth together, and there’s a whole lot more power in love than in hate.

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