Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Bombs: Boston and Birmingham

I have spent many formative years running road races.  I've run neighborhood 3 mile events and more 10Ks than I can count.  I've done the Army 10 miler once, and the Kiawah Island half-marathon once.  I've been at numerous finish lines cheering for loved ones and everyone running around them.  My dad just finished 2nd in his age division (70-75) in the Cherry Blossom 10 miler on April 7. 

When I first started running, back in 1980, I didn't know many marathoners, and the ones I knew were male and young and just out of college where they'd run track and field.  When I first started running, women didn't run the marathon in the Olympics--that event was first added for the 1984 Games.  The world has changed--in some ways for the better, and in some ways for the worse.  In all my running years, I worried more about my body failing or being attacked as I logged my miles in the early morning.  Now, we may have had a new worry added.

Yesterday, when I heard about bombs at the Boston Marathon, my first thought was, is it that time of year already?  Once upon a time, the calendar of road races and track and field ran alongside the regular calendar in my head, a different liturgical pattern.  And then I felt sick and sad.

Those of us who have spent time around road races know that they're vulnerable events:  runners move through city streets cheered on by people who really can't be screened.  It's not like going to watch a baseball game.

I hope we don't decide to cancel a lot of events. I hope we decide that some things are worth the risk. Marathons teach us to be brave and to attempt things we never thought we could do. We can't turn into scared mice who refuse to leave the house.

Today may be a day when many of us struggle to feel hopeful.  It's a week of grim anniversaries:  the Virginia Tech shootings, the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine shootings.

Let me remind us all of a more positive anniversary.  On this day, in 1963, Martin Luther King wrote his influential "Letter from a Birmingham Jail."  Go here to read it and be impressed.  Here's a taste:  "I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

This letter didn't change the world immediately.  In fact, it took months before a critical mass of people became aware of it.  But it is one of the documents of the Civil Rights movement and of U.S. history that changed the trajectory.

We live in a more just world because of that letter.  It was a bomb of a different sort.

We all have choices to make each and every day.  Some actions will move the world towards peace, towards justice, towards love.  Others will move the world towards terror, towards fear, towards hate.

Like marathoners, like Civil Rights workers, we are in training for a much larger event, maybe larger than we realize right now.  In days like these, it's important to continue to commit ourselves to love, courage, and peace.

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