Two weeks ago our nation was hit with yet another tragedy of violence. Terrorists (because only that term seems appropriate) attacked innocent people without any pity, killing three and injuring scores of others. Even an 8-year-old child had his life taken when their bombs went off. In the aftermath, police officers were injured, a campus cop was killed and one of the two suspects forfeited his life, too. Nobody won in the tragedy at the Boston Marathon.
As I’ve sat back and tried to think through the sickness involved in this tragedy, it’s been interesting to watch how people have used this event for their own agendas. Politicians, for or against gun-control, quickly pounced on Boston as support for their position. I’ve read blogs and editorials on the need for immigration reform, gun bans, hardware store background checks on certain purchases (seriously!) and one tongue-and-cheek piece on new legislation for mandatory background checks and required registry for anyone wanting to buy a pressure cooker.
Whatever your angle, you can probably find some sort of support in almost any tragedy, and that in itself, is a bit of a tragedy.
But there are moments of compassion, kindness and courage that rise up in the face of adversity. What do we learn from these selfless acts of service: the powerful impact of people living the Overboard Life. People like…
The first responders. The men and women of Boston’s police force, and the many EMTs, nurses and doctors involved in the medical care of victims and survivors was unreal. Without concern for the possibility of more bombs, these people thrust themselves in the middle of the chaos to help save lives, and some with a goal to capture the perpetrators.
The runners. Many of the runners put themselves in harm’s way, by working to help move the crowds to safety. Imagine having run 20+ miles of a marathon, hearing explosions on either side of you, and then having the courage to not sprint away to safety, but instead, to make sure spectators are ushered away.
The other runners. Some runners did take off after they heard the explosions. They were the ones who ran to nearby hospitals and donated blood because they knew there was going to be an immediate need. That’s right…they ran 26.2 miles, then sprinted to a hospital to give blood I’m sure their bodies would have been happy to keep.
The volunteers: My wife and I have hosted a 6.21k race (about 3.8 miles) race. It takes about 20-25 volunteers to pull off that little race for 150 racers. Multiply that force by 100 in order to get what you need for the Boston Marathon and you might get close to the total number of volunteers walking the streets, holding signs, passing out water, marking memorials (for the Newton children) and cheering on racers. Hundreds of volunteers took time to help the wounded, to protect the fallen and keep themselves in harm’s way until help arrived.
The people of Boston. Did you hear how people in Boston just opened their homes to total strangers? As the chaos was unraveling, many people in the city opened their doors and welcomed runners, bystanders and anyone who needed shelter into their homes. They fixed meals while the city was on lockdown and there were dozens of reports of guests staying overnight in the care of people entirely unknown to them.
I could go on, but you’ve probably read all the stories, and know about the amazing men and women and children who helped while others ran; who stayed calm while a few crazies looted stores, and who risked their own safety in order to ensure the safety of others.
As I reflected on that I kept wondering, “what makes a person react in such a way?” Is it just a particular personality type? Is it just the fight-or-flight response to adrenaline? Then I listened more to interviews and read more conversations and I started to understand this: these amazing people responded that way, because that’s who they are.
When it comes to the Overboard Life, we have to learn to live Overboard all the time! That way, when those moments come and there is a need for someone to stand in the gap when others fall away, we’ll be ready. It won’t be a matter of trying to muster the courage for a moment of need, it will be a matter of doing what is already natural -- stepping out in faith because faith is where we already live.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the people who acted courageously weren’t scared, or that it was easy for them to respond so bravely. My point is, in the moment of fear, panic and uncertainty, those courageous individuals did what they already were used to doing -- reaching past their own worries, self-doubt and heightened sense of danger and reaching toward life-saving action. These were people who had passed the test in the “small things” of life, and they were ready when the big things came.
Let’s learn from this tragedy, and the one in West Texas, too (where in the same fashion, people sacrifice their own safety, and in many cases their own lives, in order to ensure the safety and life of others). We can never know when key moments will strike, but we can have a gauge to know if we’ll be ready when they do. How? By practicing Overboard living in the small details. You see, we don’t know when God will give us opportunity to show our faith, but by practicing daily -- we’ll have a much better chance of being ready.
So go ahead and take the plunge, every day, life is always better on the water!