On the off-chance you have not figured this out yet – I like words. I like to talk (too much), to write (arguably, too much), and to speak out on issues I care about (never enough). Words are powerful. Hopefully my words are also useful. But there are some things for which words are insufficient.
A couple of days ago, two devastating bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people died and many, many more were maimed. My disrespect for the perpetrators is even stronger than my disrespect for other killers. Some people kill by confronting their victims. These are evil, horrible, people. Others kill by planting an explosive, walking away, and not even having the guts to confront the people they are murdering. These are also evil, horrible people; worse yet, they are cowards. I really don’t have much respect or tolerance for cowards.
At the opposite extreme are heroes. These are the people who, after running for 4 hours, hear an explosion and, instead of retreating, run toward the smoke, toward the blood, toward the horror. These are the kinds of people I most respect. When I think of the words I write, I realize that my work, my speeches, my advocacy, my blogging, and my teaching pale in comparison to the acts of these truly great people.
In Judaism, our Talmud teaches that “to save a single life is to save a whole world“. There are many ways to understand this. My personal way is genealogical. A bright 8-year-old boy, a beautiful young woman, and a Chinese student are now dead. Their lives have vanished – 3 people out of billions. But each of those 3 people had the potential to be great; each of those people were potentially the progenitors of an infinite number of subsequent generations. Three people are gone but, with them, three entire worlds. Every person who was brave enough to have heard a blast and to have found themselves immediately running toward the chaos was doing their part to save the world. Heroes all!
Rebbe Nachman of Braslav is famously quoted as saying: “Life is a very narrow bridge between two eternities. Be not afraid.” However one chooses to interpret these “eternities”, one thing is certain: The “bridge” is finite and the greatest detriment to crossing it is fear. So to all of you who forsook the fear and ran into the chaos, I hope you take pride in knowing that your willingness to recognize the individual humanity in every person and to put your fear aside to help others, is one reason the world does not collapse into a black hole of evil. So, thank you.