Moments after the bombs exploded in Boston, the questions started.
First, the ones that needed a quick response.
Where can I get help? What happened? Is my brother OK?
Then the questions that linger in a soul.
Why would anyone do this? How can I ever feel safe?
And the one that haunts me the most, the one that draws close to my face and looks me in the eye.
What can I do to help?
It taunts me every time another hurt flashes across my screen, every time I read of a too-soon funeral. Each time I feel small, too miniscule to do anything, so I fall into the carefully set trap of evil – the trap of thinking I can do nothing.
I pray and I pack my lunch for another day. I match socks and sweep dog hair off the floor. I begin to think that I’m right where evil wants me, defeated on the ground, and that’s when something inside me starts to stir and kick at the dust.
I may not be able to keep the world safe, but I can give my children words to describe their emotions. I can model how to disagree respectfully. I can make the effort to not just know my neighbors’ names but to know what they’re going through.
I can turn off the TV and log off Facebook long enough to volunteer or send a thoughtful note or study something that helps me be a better advocate, a better voter, a better friend. I can live beneath my means so I have more to give.
I can do all of that and more because, make no mistake, hard times come to every neighborhood. From bombs in the back of moving trucks to tsunamis licking away the land, misery finds us all. And when it does, we need each other.
We need the candles lit and the signs hung that say we’re in people’s thoughts. We need the meals, the teddy bears, the memorials. We need to know that other people are standing – and kneeling – with us.
We need to know that God has not left us to deal with this alone.
I stare back at “What can I do to help?” and I start to nod. This, this is it. I can’t prevent evil but I can work toward a healthier community, and when all seems dark and lonely, I can bring light and love.
That much I can do.