A Week

Last Monday started on a high note. It was S’ birthday and we had big plans for a nice birthday dinner and birthday strings (a family tradition involving lots of presents!) When you’re in my family, your birthday = being pretty spoiled for the day (or week, when my sister gets her way. Actually, more like a month… 😉 )

Then Boston happened.

We still celebrated birthdays, exchanged gifts, went to dinner. But with the news on in the background.

Two nights later, I was at work when the fertilizer plant exploded in Texas.

And Thursday/Friday, I couldn’t turn off the radio as the marathon bomber manhunt proceeded.

It was a week. I think The Onion said it best.

At times like this, it’s hard to figure out exactly how to exist. Do I keep myself glued to the news, as I am apt to do, despite the sobering effects it has on my psyche? Do I curl up into the fetal position and fear the next terrible thing to happen, wallowing in the state of our world? (See here for an excellent APW post about fear and love in the context of today’s 24-hour news cycle). Do I stick to my normal schedule in defiance of those who would prefer we live in fear? But how is that even possible?

I’ve found myself wavering between the two extremes. Trying to move forward with my normal life and my normal responsibilities (all the while popping a daily Zyrtec and cursing the pollen gods. Seriously, when is this yellow crap going to go away so I can breathe again?) But also finding that I am more sober, more quiet, a little bit sadder. Not wanting to let Boston or Texas or cowardice in Washington, D.C. or any other terrible news story get the better of my spirit. And yet knowing that to be human, you have to acknowledge the truths and realities that these stories bring: life is fleeting. And life is precious.

At the end of last week, at a work meeting, we held an impromptu moment of silence. And our committee chair said, on the verge of tears, “Aren’t you grateful that you work in a helping profession during times like these?” I realized what a gift it was to not only be alive today, but to be in a field where we run toward the people who need us. We sprint to parking lots to administer CPR. We tear down fences to apply tourniquets to bleeding limbs. We run into burning buildings to evacuate and rescue, sometimes at the expense of our own safety.

And in the sad, sobering, violent times, we make more room for each other, not less. We love more fiercely. We live in the moments.

We keep existing, no matter where our hearts and minds may take us. And we keep serving, because that is just what we do.

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