In 1980 I ran my first marathon and have run dozens more since then in Chicago, Nashville, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and many other cities. And I have had the honor of running the Boston Marathon twice. In my opinion, the greatest part about marathons is what we runners call “the human race.” We relish the fact that the whole human race is represented: young and old and male and female compete together, those who are running and those who compete in wheel chairs as well, sighted and blind runners run side by side, and runners from every corner of the globe run together in races like Boston. And in no other sport do the world’s elite athletes in their sport participate in the exact same event as the average, everyday athlete.
When we runners have talked about the whole human race being present at every marathon, we never imagined that description to include the possibility of terrorists, but from this week going forward we will. In Boston this week, it turns out that “the whole human race” included about 25,000 runners, 500,000 spectators and 2 (the best guess at this point) terrorists. Boston is a painful reminder that within the whole human race we find the best and the worst of human behavior.
In the midst of all that I have read and seen this week, the words in the image at the top of this article have stayed with me. “Fear is not the only force at work in the world.” I love these words because they honor the fact that fear is indeed part of what we all feel after a terrorist attack, and yet at the same time these words remind us that there are so many other forces at work in the world both before and after an attack like this.. Both the runners and the responders showed us that love, courage, compassion, commitment, discipline, sacrifice, faith, and hope are also very much alive and at work in the world.
We have a saying in Living Compass that says, “whatever we pay attention to is what will grow.” For me, this means this week that I am allowing myself to feel my fear, grief, and anger, while at the same time I am giving most of my attention to the countless demonstrations of character and conviction that I have also witnessed this week in Boston.
The valley of the shadow of death is indeed real. Life is horribly unfair at times. Bad things happen to good people. The 23rd psalm does not deny the valley of the shadow of death, while at the same time it reminds us that we do not have to be consumed with fear. “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.” I take this to mean that while I will feel fear, I need not get stuck in that feeling. I can walk through that valley of death and of fear and emerge on the other side filled with hope, love, healing, and even forgiveness. That journey through the valley of death and fear is not easy. It takes time, commitment, discipline, and perseverance–something the 23,000 runners at the Boston marathon know a lot about and who in this midst of our fear serve as an inspiration for all of us.