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How to Talk With Your Kids About The Boston Bombings

The round-the-clock media coverage of the events in Boston is understandable. Our anxious minds find something soothing about information — even if the news is scary — because we want desperately to understand what’s happening. We want to know that everything will be okay. We want to know the bad guys have been caught.

At the same time, the media’s relentless analysis can give the impression, particularly to children, that the world is a terrible and frightening place, and we are all just one-step away from harm when we walk out our front door.

For that reason, it’s important for us to highlight the positive aspects of this story as well. Not in a Pollyannaish-way that suggests everything is fine, but in a real way. It’s necessary to talk about the people who have opened their homes to others, sent food to first responders and provided an outpouring of support and kindness to those in need.

A popular post on Facebook this week is a quote from the beloved children’s television host Mr. Rogers: 

When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

My daughter was 3-1/2 when two planes deliberately crashed into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City. It was a devastating experience that traumatized our country. As a former New Yorker, I was deeply affected by the horrible images I saw of my hometown.

I thought long and hard about how to explain this event to my preschool-age daughter in a way that her young mind could grasp. I worried that the way I described the events would influence her view of the world.

I finally told her, “A few people did a bad thing and hit the buildings with their planes. And now thousands of people are helping to make it better.”

I hoped that explanation would ease her into the realities of life. Yes, sometimes bad things happen. Really bad. But there’s also good in the world. A lot of good.

What to tell your children about these events will differ depending on their age:

  • Young children should be shielded from violent or graphic imagery on television and the Internet. They need to know that they are safe, secure and protected by the adults around them.
  • Older children might have questions about the event and why it happened. Answer their questions and explain the details without getting overly sensational or frightening.

And keep in mind that we adults can be easily overwhelmed by the constant barrage of news, too. For me, as I follow the media’s coverage, I am reminded that terrible things happen in life. I grieve for the families and the community affected. And then I think about the courage, bravery and kindness of the people who helped. I think about the good in this story because it’s always there.

Why Tragedies Like the Boston Marathon Bombing Inspire Greatness

Screen Shot 2013-04-17 at 12.56.54 PMWhy? That’s the leading question from many when they think about the Boston Marathon bombings earlier this week, especially since there still remains much speculation around the reasons for this event. What possible level of anger, madness, or beliefs could justify inflicting such horrible pain and harm on innocent people? Though we await answers to some confusing and difficult questions, one thing we do know is that in the moments after the explosions, our best as human beings showed.

We are programmed with a fight-or-flight response when presented with danger or change; it is there to keep us safe. But on April 15, more people disregarded this impulse and, instead of running away, ran toward the explosion to help the brave first responders. Badly injured victims had strangers holding their hands, talking to them, crying with them. From the darkness of tragedy can come greatness. We find our courage. We stay instead of run.

Americans are tough. Though we may get upset and raise our voices, we quickly forget ourselves and focus on the ones in need when one of our own is hurt, challenged, or needs help. We run to the scene, not from it. We become selfless, responsive, and more aware of others. We show up. We find our grit and resolve. This is who we truly are.

In tragedy we unite. It was that way on 9-11. It was that way when the tornado destroyed much of Joplin, MO. It was that way with the shootings in Tucson, Columbine, Aurora and Sandy Hook Elementary. It was that way with the
Boston Marathon bombings. At our core, we Americans are amazing, selfless and compassionate people.

But why does it take a tragedy for us to step into our greatness? We are obviously capable of this response on a daily basis. We can choose to respect and care for one another, even when their house hasn’t been destroyed, their limbs damaged, or their loved ones lost. We have the ability to be powerful, bold and courageous in dealing with differences and challenges without first needing a tragedy to compel us to a greatness response.

Regardless of our backgrounds, we are connected; we are Americans. And as Chad Finn, Boston.com Columnist wrote, “No, we are not all related. But in times of trouble you’d better believe we are all family.” As a family, we instantly come together to lessen the pain and help in any way possible. Our collective effort, genius and spirit response can be epic. So how can we rally with this same energy, focus and passion in our everyday lives?

Last week, I spoke to 120 teens at a Rotary Youth Leadership Assembly. I shared how these teens could start to find their personal greatness road in life – to show up as a leader of their own lives. Start young to strike out violence and hatred as the automatic or conditioned response. Start young to care more about others, in every moment. We can choose to build a world that solves its issues and challenges through discussion, mutual respect and ideas, not bombings, violence and vitriol. They truly saw this as a possibility.

Boston, my college town and home to many family members and friends, and the determined athletes and enthusiastic spectators are the latest victims in a violent world. A violent world considers violence as a legitimate solution to challenge and conflict. This behavior fills our television shows, movies, video games, and Internet. This is how many see the world because this is much of what we see in our world.

Explosions At 117th Boston MarathonIn response to violence and tragedy, we impose few limits on our support. We find the energy, the strength, the courage, and the commitment to stay, help, inspire, and deliver – we bring our A-game. In many of the daily events of life we show up with our B-game – our petty, small-minded, and selfish responses. We fight with each other. We blame and attack each other. We forget we are family.

In moments of tragedy we see how capable we are for empathy, effort, tenacity, support, love, compassion, and resilience. Without tragedy, I know we are still capable of the same powerful emotions. We can learn ‘daily greatness’ responses from life’s tragic circumstances. We have it in us. We can choose to always bring our A-game, to all events in life. The result can be a more compassionate and responsive world. I want it to be possible. I believe it is possible. I know it is possible.

The horrible events at the Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15 will never be forgotten. They’ll change the way everyone thinks of this historical day in Boston, and next year, as Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said, the marathon will “be bigger and better than ever before.” Bostonians banded together. Americans came together. Our greatness showed. We weren’t heroes; we were just family, doing what families are capable of and what they do best. My thoughts and prayers are with the runners, their families, spectators, volunteers, the first responders, and all of us who watched in horror from other parts of the country. May we all heal from this pain, and unite in our commitment to support each other more often as family and commit to creating a more peaceful world.

* * *

Jay Forte is the president and founder of The Greatness Zone, an organization providing practical tools, programs and resources to help us know ourselves, find our fit and transform our world. He writes and speaks on living our personal greatness and is an advocate for raising the collective consciousness about and the responsibility for showing up to our work and life with passion and purpose.

Photo credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

Photo credit: Bill Greene/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Rebecca Pacheco on the Boston Marathon Bombing: Now What?

Monkeying around with Heartbreak Bill yesterday morning. We still love 26.2.

If you know me, you know that I love the Boston Marathon. I ran it in 2009. I cheer myself hoarse and crazy as a spectator. I prepare athletes for race day and help them recover afterward with yoga. I’ve scoped many favorite spots to watch over the years: the finish line when it was blistering hot in 2004, Coolidge Corner as a 20-something living in nearby Allston, Kenmore Square where I swelled with pride when my absurdly fast and dedicated roommate at the time ran by (the noise is deafening there, especially when the Red Sox game lets out). When I worked at Boston magazine, I would dart up Mass Ave. from my office, to watch at the intersection of Commonwealth. I loved it there because the crowd wasn’t too thick, and I’d grown to recognize the kindly police officer on duty over the years. Bless him for looking the other way as I scaled a lamp post to cheer for friends with one– jubilant or near delirious– mile to go. Yesterday, this was the precise location where thousands of runners were halted, as reports surfaced of two bombs detonated in quick succession at the finish line, killing at least two people, injuring dozens, and turning the scene of Boston’s high athletic holiday into something resembling a war zone of blood and chaos.

I was at mile 20 of the course, known as Heartbreak Hill, on a day that broke my city’s collective heart.  

One moment I was cheering runners, including the American Red Cross marathon team, along with its coach Dan Fitzgerald. The next, I was too somberly aware of how important its work is.  There was a tragic and twisted irony in cheering Red Cross chief executive, Jarrett Barrios, who was having a long, hard race at mile 20, in one moment, and in the next, frantically calculating that he likely finished during the blasts. He was OK, stopped at mile 25.8, near my favorite lamp post.

The concern from family, friends, and fans of my site Om Gal (many of whom I’ve never met) via calls, texts, tweets, Facebook, and Instagram was immediate and unforgettable. My dad, the emotional first responder called; he never panics. My brother, who factored that I may have jumped into the race for the last 6-miles with a friend, as he did for me in 2009… My mom, who already knew I was OK but was in tears at the thought that it could have been me running, or her spectating, or anyone…

And, that is the saddest, most bottomed out feeling. It may not be me among those who lost their lives or limbs or my loved ones (you realize you love them all, really, on days like this), but it’s someone’s someone. It always is. It’s a hollowed out feeling that on the other side of moments when a B.A.A. volunteer directing runners across the finish is saying, “You’re all winners.” There are times of profound darkness, seconds later, when all of us lose.

Which leads us to the question we’re all asking: what are we to do next? As Bostonians, those all over the world standing in support of us, as yogis, as athletes who live for finish lines and never expect to die on one, and as citizens of the world. We need to do something right now. What is it?

We can pray.  

My god daughter, sent via text, from her mom and my best friend in CA, with the message: We carry you in our hearts.
My god daughter, sent via text, from her mom and my best friend in CA, with the message: We carry you in our hearts.

We may not be doctors, but we can pray for doctors and medical staff in area hospitals. May they have all the resources they need, in body, mind, and spirit, to do their lifesaving work. We may not be therapists, but we can pray for those who witnessed the carnage first-hand. A close friend crossed the finish moments before the blasts; her two small children were in the stands watching. They are unharmed but terrified. They do not want their mom to run another marathon. We can pray for government and law enforcement officials seeking answers and future safeguards. We can pray for each and every person whose life brushed too painfully close to yesterday’s traumatic events. Our collective heart can choose, right now, to eradicate harm and violence of any kind, in thoughts, words, and deeds, and as often as humanly possible choose love over fear and peace over hatred. This is the only way to change anything.

Prayers don’t need to be articulate or dogmatic. Maybe you’re not much for God, but the way I look at prayer: it never hurts. It’s your heart speaking a truth, for good. If the concept of prayer doesn’t speak to you, you can mediate, which is simply the act of sitting in the presence of our own mind with the conscious intention to cultivate peace for yourself and others.

If you can’t wrap your brain around that right now, which is entirely OK, you can do something of service for someone. It doesn’t matter whom or how big. Just pick a someone. Give them light and love. Give a smile, a handwritten card, or a meal because they need one. Give blood. Give time and energy to someone troubled who needs it to feel more whole. When your work is done, the card mailed, the vial full, the sandwich devoured, do it again. Do it bigger. Or, do it more humbly. Because that’s the thing about peace and healing: there’s no finish line. It is our daily work. It’s what we do next and always.

What I did when I got home from the marathon course: prayer and meditation.  Because it never hurts.

What I did when I got home from the marathon course: prayer and meditation. Because it never hurts.


Thumbnail photo credit: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters

Bombs Go Off in Boston on Marathon Monday

bh6fwfvcuaa-pwbAccording to reports on social media, several bombs exploded today near the course of the Boston Marathon. Full coverage has not yet emerged on the incident, as reporters are apparently “in lockdown at race headquarters.” According to the New York Times, though, a considerable number of runners and spectators were injured in the blasts, which went off roughly four hours after the men’s race began. The New York Daily News has reported that at least three people were killed in the explosion. By the looks of photographs that have surfaced from the morning’s events, the scene was chaotic, smoky, and even bloody.

The Boston Marathon is the oldest annual marathon in the world, held every year on Patriot’s Day. The event hosts over 20,000 runners each year, with more than half a million spectators gathered to cheer the athletes on. It is sobering that such at attack would occur at an event that celebrate human athleticism, as well as American independence. Though perhaps that it the message intended by whomever is responsible for the bombs.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those in Boston today, and to everyone affected by the attacks. Our intent is to create a space where people may grieve, discuss, and continue working to build a society free of such hateful violence.


Update: The Associated Press are now reporting that two people were killed in today’s explosions.

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