I spent Monday, April 15th through Friday, April 19th at the Unitarian Universalist Interim Ministers Seminar outside of San Antonio, Texas.
Beginning late in the day on Monday, my colleagues and I watched the events in Boston. Unitarian Universalists have a special attachment to Boston. Our Association has its headquarters in Boston. I lived in the city for ten years, half of them within walking distance of the site of the explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I have spoken by phone with a friend who lives a couple of blocks from the blasts. Lucretia had gone home from cheering at the finish line just a few minutes before the bombs exploded.
Thursday evening, after our day’s work ended, my long-time friend and colleague Steve Furrer and I were asked by Rebecca, the bartender, to pray for her aunt and uncle, who lived near the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, which had exploded the day before. Their home was damaged.
Here are two tragedies – one created intentionally, the other likely accidental. Both are painful. Painful not just to those directly touched, but to all of us. Empathy is part of what it means to be human. We feel for those who are touched by both tragedies.
The Boston Marathon bombing and the events that continue in its wake challenge our sense of safety in the world. An act of terrorism does that in a way that an accident does not. Intentional violence makes us wonder about our fellow human beings and about ourselves, whether it is one-to-one violence or mass murder. We wonder about our faith in humanity.
Watching the TV news late at night, I saw and heard of acts of generosity and courage. In Boston, not just police but runners ran toward the explosion to help. In Texas, a woman told a reporter that her house had been destroyed and her husband, a volunteer firefighter, was fighting the fire at the fertilizer plant.
My faith in humanity is chastened and not for the first time. It is also confirmed. It hurts me to know that individuals kill and that industrial and natural disasters come without warning. But empathy turns to solidarity and we share each other’s losses, burdens, and pain.