My intent was to wait until the Monday evening celebration of our Final Four Shocker team to wrap up our whirlwind trip in a final post. I planned to share our photos, write about the championship game and give a summary of one of the best weekends I’ve ever experienced, especially with my father.
But, two misguided and hateful individuals changed all that by forever tainting a race that began in 1897 in honor of Patriot’s Day. In one moment, our nation was again brought to its knees, but for a moment. We were reminded we were vulnerable; after all, we are only human. Yet, we gathered our strength and recalled that we are at our strongest when united. Sadly, it seems to take tragedy to remind us we are all in this, together.
One week. That’s all it took to take me from the highest of highs to not the lowest of lows, but to a place I have not been for quite a while. A place where I questioned where our world was headed, whether our society was hopeless, if evil would win. I don’t like that place. It’s cold, lonely, scary and unforgiving.
Shortly after I’d shed tears over the bombings in Boston, an industrial explosion devastated Texas, and the Midwest experienced massive flooding. My sister’s basement was filled with water and her friends were evacuated, their homes inundated with water, basement walls collapsing, family heirlooms lost. The week proved to be exhausting both mentally and spiritually. It’s hard to remain optimistic when it seems the planet is spinning out of control, with tragedy at the helm and nowhere to go but the abyss.
Through it all, I tried to remain hopeful, prayerful, optimistic. Not all are bad, not all is lost. I refused to point fingers at government, religion, and steadfastly ignored the social media postings by those who took this opportunity to further spew their own hateful misgivings.
Not that it was easy. I awoke many times during the night, worrying, praying, my mind rushing to conclusions. Then, this morning I stopped at Panera Bread on my way to work to pick up bagels for a staff member’s birthday. It was crowded, people were antsy, and appeared more tired than usual. We stood in line, no small talk, barely any eye contact, our eyes focused on the menu board or on the backs of the person in front of us. I ordered my bagel pack, handed over my debit card and headed toward the door.
As I exited, a red-haired little girl caught my attention. She was sitting in a chair next to the windows, her Mary Jane clad feet dangling far above the floor, around her neck a string of pink beads and she was tapping her chubby fingers on the table and singing. Alone, she was waiting for her mother who I knew had been in line behind me, ordering bagels, orange juice and a wild berry smoothie. I must have paused because she looked through the glass at me and smiled, a wide, inviting, tiny-toothed smile. Her eyes were ocean blue and filled with laughter and love and as I stopped she raised her tiny hand and waved.
So, tonight as I sat and watched the end unfold on television, watched the speed of my Twitter feed increase, and sipped a spring seasonal beer, praying for no more casualties, no more fear, I thought of her. So small, fresh, joyful and trusting. And I thought of my nephew, my great-nephew and grandchildren and in those moments I knew I would not give up, not lose hope, not point fingers, not despair, not forget, because if I do, if we do, then we are allowing evil to win. And I refuse to let evil win, not when there are so many young people on this planet who need us to lead the way. The funny thing is, as the Bostonians cheered law enforcement and first responders, I wondered if instead these little people are leading us, reminding us of what it means to hopefully, unconditionally love and accept others, even strangers we see through the glass at a Panera.