I was walking home from downtown with my daughter to meet my son on the bus. Despite the chill in the wind, the sun felt warm, and we had been admiring the spring flowers. The daffodils, the tulips, the grape hyacinths. I have been naming these for N., wanting her to learn them, to learn names for the signs of renewal. We had stopped to talk with a mother and her daughter down the street, who were out gardening, weeding, preparing beds for new planting. We were all just soaking in the sun.
Across the street, a neighbor came out, shouted to us, asking if we'd heard. It's all over the news, she said.
My heart sank. What now? Though I knew, without knowing. More destruction. She told us what had happened, and selfishly, my mind went immediately to the two people I knew running the race this year, knowing that I had to get home to find them.
We picked up my son, and no one said anything about it at the bus stop. I got home, and said nothing to my son, who sat doing his homework in the kitchen. I checked the internet, discovered that my two friends had checked in with other friends. I felt relieved. But then also sad, outraged, heartsick.
I have not grown immune to tragedy. I still ask why, because I can't help but wonder what makes people act in such destructive ways. I keep hoping that I'll be proven right sometime, that human nature really is better than this.
Much as it is supposed to offer comfort, especially to children who feel unsafe when their fragile world is shattered, I confess, sometimes I tire of the Mr. Rogers quote. Maybe because "looking" feels passive. And I need to do something when tragedy strikes. I hate feeling like my hands are tied.
And yet, my hands are not tied. Because first, as my friend Noah often reminds me, "love WINS." Every time. We counter hate, or misunderstanding, or emptiness, with relentless, aggressive love, and eventually love wins, because even if it can't change the world in an instant, it can change us.
And second, I feel that I am charged with tikkun olam. I first learned the phrase from a Marge Piercy novel; it put into words something that had been in my heart for a long time: that we can work towards the manifestation of divinity in every corner of the world, that we can restore our fragmented social system to wholeness and order, that we can preserve the physical world. The fact that there is a name for this kind of work, and that its roots in history and mysticism offer support for individual actions, gives me hope, in a strange way, that it can be done.
Tonight, I am sending thoughts of healing, and comfort, and peace. Tomorrow I will go back to this work. And it is difficult work. I'm not always good at it. Love is not always easy. But I can't think of anything we need more.