Boston and the bad that reveals the good

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” — Fred Rogers

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.” — Patton Oswald

bostonI have been really struggling this last month or so with anxiety and depression — they tend to come together, in deeply fatiguing, self-reinforcing cycles of emotional exhaustion.   The pressure of the end of my coursework for my PhD, impending comprehensive exams, being disowned, recurrent illness, having to move suddenly, death and rape threats, and coping with break-ins and stuff being stolen has all been just a lot for me to deal with.  And while I have more or less coped, sometimes I’ve been a lot closer to less than to more.

It used to be that things like what just happened in Boston would make it worse.  It would set off my anxiety about being in public spaces, irrational fear about things truly unlikely to happen to me, and the fact that humanity was capable of such things would depress me.  It’s called terrorism for a reason, and being prone to feeling terror at minor things like telephones ringing, it makes sense that I’d get it from major things like people being attacked.

I felt a little sad today, as I read about what happened, but I mostly felt a rush of love for Bostonians and those at the marathon who immediately set about trying to help those who had been hurt, tell others what was going on, and figure out what had happened.  This is probably partly detachment, but it is also that I see the events much more differently than I used to.  The truly amazing thing about when things go wrong isn’t that things could or did go wrong, but that so many people risk their own safety and lives, often instinctively, to help strangers.

And actually, as difficult as my last few months have been and as much as I haven’t gotten my depression and anxiety fully under control, other people have repeatedly shown their fundamental decency and desire to be the person who makes things even just a little bit better for me.  People can be terrible, but most of us are just waiting for a chance to be wonderful to one another, it just sometimes gets lost in our own daily struggles.  But not always.

See people run towards the explosion, see the message from the Red Cross that they had enough donated blood only hours after the explosions, see strangers opening their homes to out-of-towners evacuated from their hotels. Know hope.