Musings on the Boston Marathon

I admire distance runners. I appreciate their stamina and perseverence. The very thought of running 23 miles is enough to get me tired. I have run 23 miles before, but only in cumulative manner over a period of days and weeks.

The latest marathon in Boston was supposed to be a celebration of endurance and the human spirit. Runners from all over the world came to the city to compete with each other and themselves, many simply wanting to say that they finished the race. This would have been a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

Of course, this year’s marathon is known for something else much more disturbing. It did turn out to be, however, another kind of test in endurance and the human spirit. Complete strangers prior to this event rushed to one another’s aid in a time of crisis. Police and other first responders pulled together to care for the victims and attempt to create a sense of calm in a scene of complete chaos and panic.

I’ve been thinking about that 8 year old boy who was killed, and how much grief his family must be going through. They must have all gone out to enjoy the weather and cheer on the runners, and I’ve heard that this little one had just gone to get some ice cream. No one knew what was coming. It was horrible. I have an 8 year old boy, and I cannot fathom the grief and anger and conflicting emotions that must come pouring in after such an unspeakable loss.

Watching all this on television, like many others, has gotten to thinking about how often we tend to get upset over things that aren’t that important after all. I’ve also observed that resentment and bitterness can creep in whenever we feel like we haven’t gotten what we think we have coming to us or when things don’t happen in a way that goes our way. I doubt very seriously that this family has given any thought to some of their previous problems in light of the unbelievable pain created by a cowardly and evil action.

John Claypool told a story about something that happened when he was a little boy. It was during the War, and a soldier needed a place to store his belongings and asked if he could leave them with John’s family. The Claypools obliged, and the soldier was grateful and said they were free to use anything he was leaving them. One item that they enjoyed using was a Bendex washing machine. They didn’t have a washing machine, and this appliance made their lives much more enjoyable and the chore of cleaning easier.

The war eventually ended, and the soldier came for his things, including the washing machine. Upon his taking the machine, John expressed his anger at having “his” washing machine taken away. His mother rebuked him and told him that the machine wasn’t theirs to begin with, and the very act of being able to have it at all was a gift. As such, they should be grateful for being able to use it at all.

There are a number of vices that are to be avoided, but I think one of the most dangerous ones of all is ingratitude. Far too often we think about what we don’t have rather than what we do have. We complain more than we express thanks. We can be jealous of each other rather than thankful for the blessings we have received. And we can take our time and days for granted.

The Boston Marathon will be forever changed as a result of these bombings. I hope that is some small way each one of us can be changed too, for the better. Let us remember the words of the Psalmist: “I will extol the Lord at all times. His praise will forever be on my lips” (Psalm 34.1).

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