“Yet dawn is ever the hope of men” (and women). – Aragorn, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
It’s Saturday morning.
Everyone is waking up slowly this morning, shaking their heads, thinking we made it through this terrible week. But so many did not. Many who were alive last Saturday, especially in Boston and in West, Texas, are not alive this one.
It’s been a week of terror and heartache and grief. It’s been a week of explosions. Worlds exploded this week, and they can’t be put back together. Not in the way they were.
Lots of people wrote about fear and pain on their blogs this week, but I was silent. I tried to write, because that’s how I know what I’m feeling and thinking, but I couldn’t. I was too overwrought, to the point of not feeling anything because it was too much.
I wasn’t alone, I don’t think. At least Craig Ferguson was with me.
The late-late show host is one of my favorite people I’ve never met. He’s ribald, odd, and offbeat. He obviously doesn’t care what fancy network people think. He does his own thing, in the middle of the night.
His monologue always starts with “It’s a great day for America.”
The beautiful thing is that he believes it, as he went through the citizenship process in 2008 to become an American. The horrible thing is he’s had to change his monologue too many times in recent years because it hasn’t been a great day for America.
On Monday night, he said this:
Is anyone else sick of this s***? I seem to have to say that too often. People say to me ‘Craig, your job is to make people laugh at the end of the day.’ And I think, yes, that’s true, but I’ve never professed to be any damn good at that. … If I have all this inside of me, if I have all this rage and anger and distress and upset inside of me, I’m not a good enough comedian to hide all that from you.
And that was Monday. Before over a dozen people died in Texas due to an explosion that leveled the small town. Before a manhunt shut down a city and kept its citizens in fear and trembling.
By yesterday, I had spent so much time reading news articles, but so little time processing because it was just too much to process at one time. It’s like that week in December when Connecticut lost babies and my town lost animals. Not the same level of grief, but grief compounded.
We’re tired, Craig and I and everyone, by our grief being compounded.
Of all of the cities, these two. I’ll be in Waco in a week and a half. My first time there.
And I was in Boston three weeks ago. My first time there.
I drove my suitcase over the cobblestones, tearing up the wheels. I watched the sky for signs of blue. I rode the T train in the wrong direction.
I visited a college that was old and smelled like knowledge, the campus deserted because it was the day of my Savior’s death. The buildings still stood, though.
I spoke with a professor who had a soft Irish lilt and a pensive demeanor, who paused after I spoke to gather his thoughts. I talked shop with a literature student, and we exchanged book titles that the other must read.
I followed the red bricks of the Freedom Trail, following in the steps of history. I was moved to tears by a simple statue of a young Quaker girl, murdered for her faith in this land of religious freedom. A woman I walked past said, “The artist was a woman!” I nodded, hiding my tears and thought, the subject was too.
I saw a tower and I decided to climb it. I paused on the 201st step and pretended to look out the window while I caught my breath, gearing up for the final 93.
Mostly I wandered up and down streets mixed with tourists and locals, streets that were run down today. I didn’t walk down the streets that ran with blood.
I was warned about the people, told they’re not rude, that’s just how they are. But I didn’t find them rude; I found them direct. Underneath was a resolve. I knew that, in a crisis, those people would run to help instead of running away. I had this discussion with my friend David, who lives in New York City, about the community aspect. They won’t look you in the eye on the subway, but you damn well know that they’ve got your back when all hell breaks loose.
I was right. They ran toward, not away. That’s how I know Boston will be okay.
And I know it’s not about me, but on Monday, I wasn’t sure I would be okay. Nor on Wednesday. Or Friday. I was just so tired.
It was the movie theatre, and the mall, and the elementary school, now the finish line. One by one, the places where we all meet to celebrate, to communicate, to connect are being stripped from us, turned into places of fear and rubble. How can we feel safe when nothing is safe? How long before we all decide it’s not worth it to go outside, that we just Skype and Gchat and iMessage?
How long before we decide that community could mean death?
And I fear until I remember that Palestinians still have wedding celebrations. Iraqis still have people over for dinner. Because life doesn’t stop just because it’s dangerous to continue. What’s the sense in saving life if it’s not filed with rich experiences?
Community is pain, in the end. The people we love now will leave us in one way or another. But community is so much joy too. If we love and celebrate together, we must also grieve together. Because the grief makes the joy more vivid, and the joy makes the grief worth it.
Also this week, I received a Facebook message from a friend who asked me and others to pray that her little guy shifts his position so that they can cancel their C-section. I got an email that a co-worker who I’ve never met had a massive stroke while in his MBA class. These things are scary. And these things I can pray for.
I am part of a larger community, and I should pray for them, for the bombs going off in places that don’t speak English. I should pray for the towns in crisis in my own country. And I should pray and love those around me, who need support and love. Who need my grief and my joy.
The world gets dark, and then when a community rallies, it gets lighter again. Such is life, the shades of gray. We can see it as drab or cloudy, or we can rejoice in the moments when our worlds turn almost white and everything is revealed.
It has always been that way. And it makes us tired. But we will get stronger if we search out joy, love those around us, and pray for those far away.
It’s Saturday morning. Sleep in, rest up. Our communities need us.