She was born on a Good Friday.
My daughter turned 14 on Marathon Monday in Boston. Every year her birthday also falls on a school vacation week. As she’s gotten older, this reality has gone from the anticipation of egg hunts to disappointment when all her friends are away. Not to mention that last year we were in a surreal citywide lock down after the bombings.
So, this year was special indeed. We spent it at the Boston Marathon.
Redemption. Forgiveness. Compassion. It was all there. We could have opted out. High security. Large crowds. Nervous peeps. But we chose to participate. And am I ever so happy we did.
We had five young teen girls in tow. We scored a spot in Kenmore Square, between mile 25 and 26. My older daughter was at Hereford Street with her friends – just at the turn of the finish line – with a mom who cried every time a wheelchair team passed by.
I think there are relatively few experiences in life that makes an impression like a community coming together with compassionate purpose. Over 32K runners and a million strong along the sidelines from Hopkinton to Boston, all cheering like mad. You could feel the energy and good will. For me, it restored faith in the greater good of humanity.
I thought about the work in compassionate conversations. Dr. Andrew Newberg and Mark Robert Waldman, whose work I can’t put down, describes the way we communicate with one another can fundamentally change the brain. I thought, “Whoa, what kind of ‘neural resonance’ might be happening along the Boston Marathon route?”
They write that, “kindness builds cooperation and cooperation builds a better brain.” Let’s hope we sprouted a few more compassionate circuits by witnessing this race!
Even more so, the outpouring of support represented for me meaning making at the societal level. When people stand up for what they believe in, life has purpose. Nobody knows what the personal values of the people on either side of us might be, but it brought them to the marathon.
Newberg and Waldman write: “Even though everyone has a unique set of values – running the spectrum from highly idealistic principles like truth, integrity and growth, to highly interpersonal values like love, family and friendship – when people openly share their values with each other, they come together and express mutual support.”
With Boston Strong slogans everywhere, there was certainly a sense of camaraderie. But more than that there was a resilient sense of respect, awe and love – it was ten people deep on both sides of a 26.2 mile stretch.
I believe the 2014 Boston Marathon will leave an impression of a lifetime on my daughters. We saw the elite runners, the dad of one girl in our tween entourage and scores of people from all walks of life and all abilities. A blind man. A pregnant woman. Survivors from last year’s bombing in wheelchairs. The National Guard in combat boots. Team Hoyt. The runners for the foundation created in memory of little Martin Richard, MR8. Runners from Germany, Mexico, Chicago, and San Diego, Canada. Thousands upon thousands of runners and many more spectators. Truly Impressive.
And then the next day, my newly minted 14-year-old ran 3 miles across town.
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