Originally published April 17, 2013
The bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon bring out the most devastating emotions: despair, depression, anxiety. But in the days after tragedy, we are usually overwhelmed by evidence that good still exists.
After the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, for example, came the #26acts #20acts movement started by NBC News correspondent Ann Curry. The goal was for people to complete 26 random acts of kindness—one for each of the victims. In a matter of days, Twitter and Facebook posts about #26acts went viral. People donated clothing, food and money to local shelters and homes. People held doors for each other, left gift certificates on car windshields and bought pots of coffee for patrons of local shops. Across the country, people honored the memory of the 20 children and 6 adults who met a horrific end by spreading compassion and love.
The acts of kindness were meant to console those grieving, spread the simple joy of giving and restore faith in humanity. #26acts served as a reminder that, through dark times, the people of this nation still have a lot of good to offer. After the shock of Sandy Hook abated, the #26acts momentum seemed to putter out as well. But this movement shouldn’t have slowed so much after the New Year. It wasn’t long before the country was hit with another senseless act of violence.
The Boston Marathon is celebrated far beyond the city of Boston. Runners train and travel—across countries— to compete in this race. Most of the injuries suffered were below the waist. Imagine someone whose joy comes from the ability to put one foot in front of the other, celebrating victory at one of the most distinguished races in the country, just to have it taken away. Or for those who were cheering from the sidelines — a fun, spirited day was turned into chaos. It’s heart-wrenching.
Coping with tragedy is no simple task. Trying to make sense out of seemingly random acts of violence can leave a person asking more questions than finding answers.
After Sandy Hook, people were told to hug their kids a little tighter. For the victims of the Boston Marathon blasts, maybe we should learn from the runners who crossed the finish line and continued two miles to Massachusetts General Hospital to donate blood. Counter random acts of violence with random acts of kindness. Run straight on to help those at Mass General, or run back toward the people who were right next to the explosion.
Either way, this time, the lesson is to run further. Run further—to push ourselves to our conceivable limit—and keep running. It is not always physical strength that determines our boundaries, but the will to continue forward and not lose faith. It’s time for #26acts2 to pick up where we left off.