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The Healing Process

“The Church is a hospital.”

Those opening words of the priest’s sermon caught my attention. I tend to associate church with a place of worship, of prayer, of community, of reflection, and of faith, but not usually with a hospital, at least the way I typically see and feel about a hospital. Although his statement had a thematic and contextual relevance (as I learned that Sunday, the weeks after Pentecost are devoted to celebrating the miracles of healing), I was simultaneously interested and anxious to hear his explanation of such a metaphor.

The anxiety stemmed from my deep, lifelong aversion to hospitals, and for that matter, any place resembling a doctor’s office. I am sure I am not alone in feeling this way, since from a young age we typically go to the hospital or the doctor’s office when we are sick or to see someone who is ill, perpetuating a negative connotation. The waiting rooms. The coughing. The magazines to distract us from our discomfort as we wait for our name to be called. The sanitary yet seemingly contaminated rooms and corridors. The endless forms and information. The white coats. The examinations, the diagnosis, the treatment. The co-pays, the bills, the follow-ups. Most importantly, though, the suffering. That’s what keeps me away and puts an empty feeling in my heart. And it’s not my own suffering that hurts; it’s seeing others in pain. From children to the elderly, the sense of helplessness is palpable every time I step foot in a hospital. Innocent people struggling to hold onto their lives, and there is little that I can do to help.

The key aspect of a hospital though, which cannot be ignored despite any aversion one might have, is the healing. It is the devotion and expertise (which I wholeheartedly admire) displayed by selfless people at all levels – assistants, nurses, doctors, surgeons – that allows the healing to take place. This healing, though, is not unique to a “hospital” as we tend to think of one, or to the physical ailment we are dealing with. As the priest explained in words that transcend sects, denominations, and religious beliefs as a whole, healing is a lifelong process. We are constantly being called to our hospital, whether that is a church, a gym, an art studio, a yoga class, a job, or something else, to confront our issues, to grow as people, and to heal.

The priest went on to describe the basic Judeo-Christian concept found in “Genesis” of the Old Testament: humanity being created in the image and likeness of God. Yet his explanation of this phrase shed tremendous light on the healing process and our journey through life, which are one in the same. An image is a representation of something. Although it is similar to what it portrays, it may often be blurry or skewed. No matter how many pixels, how high the resolution, how new the lens, an image can never be as good as that which actually exists, as that which the image is trying to capture.

In this way, we are an image: we reflect something great yet we are not quite there yet; we are not perfect. The difference between the image and the likeness is that of potential and the realization of that potential. The process of doing the latter is the healing we experience everyday. That healing is not an overnight process; in fact, it is lifelong. Each day we are getting better, confronting challenges, learning from mistakes and experiences to build character and the foundation to “weather the storms of life” (as the priest put it) that present themselves in so many different forms, from relationships, to professions, to illnesses. Healing is not just the alleviation of a physical ailment; it is the improvement, growth, and development of the mind, body, and soul.

A few days after hearing these words, my brother who had just begun medical school, sent me an article, Envisioning an alternative future for medicine, and his application to a program on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. The program – Integrative Medicine Oncology Initiative – seeks to combine eastern methods of relaxation, meditation, yoga, and other practices with traditional medicine in order to treat cancer patients from a holistic level. This lower cost approach has already shown beneficial effects for the patient, who is undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments to treat the bodily illness. Combining that treatment of the body with methods to heal the mind and soul, which are undoubtedly aching along with the body, is an interdisciplinary approach that may foster the healing for patients at multiple levels. For these patients, although they are in a hospital, they are being called to a different one – such as a yoga session or a guided meditation – where they can free themselves of their bodily pain and begin to heal their mind and souls as well.

Whether it is faith that one finds at church, physical activity that one experiences at a gym, creativity one displays in an art or musical studio, or a combination of all those and many more, these places are hospitals for us, calling us to them to deal with our discomfort, our hurt, our ailments, and allowing us to heal. Just as I am averse to going to a hospital, it is not easy to deal with life’s challenges. It is a difficult process, often leaving us in discomfort and pain. But going to that hospital – whatever and wherever it may be for each of us, and as hard as it may be to do so, allows one to heal. That healing continues throughout life as we deal with both lingering and new challenges. The process of changing from the image to the likeness, from potential to actualization, is an incredible journey. It is the journey, regardless of its destination, that defines life. And along the way, we get better. We heal.

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Integrity in Today’s Sports

I do not know what it is like to score 54 points on the biggest stage in the basketball world, Madison Square Garden; to effortlessly drain 11 three-pointers while leaving the entire arena in absolute awe. I’ve played a lot of basketball in my life and shot my own fair share of three-pointers, albeit on a much, much smaller stage, but other than that, I have very little in common with Stephen Curry: an NBA player, a rising star, and a growing celebrity. That is until I read the following article by the renowned sportswriter Rick Reilly, Net Gain, which describes how Curry spent time this summer in Tanzania to hang bed nets to protect people in refugee camps against malaria. In particular, I knew exactly what he meant when you see the suffering and the poverty and someone asks for help, and you are left wanting to assist but thinking, “I don’t know what to say to him.”

Although Curry spent much of his time in the western part of Tanzania at a refugee camp that was established as a result of the civil war in its neighboring country, Congo, I had the opportunity as a student in the summer of 2010 to spend six weeks on the east coast of the nation, primarily in the city of Dar es Salaam. I saw many of the same things he surely has seen: the poverty, the malaise, the fight for survival. I saw people walking in the middle of busy streets, which lacked any semblance of organization or rules to the road, holding baskets of fruit they hoped to sell. Some of those people did not have limbs; some clearly were suffering from a disease. I saw the mothers on the corner of the street with their small children trying to sell merchandise that had existed in America for several years already, seemingly the goods we did not want being dumped on a poorer country for their use. I experienced a society in which running water is a luxury.

However, I also experienced a very unique culture that cannot be fully captured in words. The people in Tanzania, despite any hardships they may face, were extremely embracing and warm, welcoming me and teaching me about their way of life. Storeowners, street artists, and other vendors all took the time to engage in a conversation with me in my broken Swahili, smiling the entire time. After my classes at the University of Dar es Salaam, people of all ages – students from elementary school all the way up to adults out of college – flocked to the soccer field and the basketball court. Despite the dirt patches in the dried out grass of the soccer field and the cracks in the cement of the basketball court, we all enjoyed the sports for what they are: an interaction of people in a competitive environment that builds friendships and character. I distinctly remember the smiles on the faces of the small children, who were too young to be disillusioned by the harsh reality of this difficult world. They were innocent, just like the children here, and they had hope. When the sun finally set, and everyone had to go home, I could only hope that they too were going home, to a safe place, and would be back the next day.

Those were the moments when I was left in that same situation as Curry describes: wanting to help more but not being able to, hoping that perhaps my friendliness may elicit a smile and a feeling that could somehow allow that person to survive another day and continue on. Unfortunately, as a student whose eyes were just being opened to an entirely different world outside the comfortable one we live in here, that was all I could do: hope.

Stephen Curry though is doing much more than hoping; he is making a difference. Through the program, Nothing But Nets, Curry donated three bed nets for every three-pointer he made this past season in an effort to reduce the cases of malaria. He happened to set an NBA record this past season for three-pointers made (272 to be exact), and during the past few weeks he actually went to Tanzania to hang with his own hands all those nets he helped fund with his three-point stroke. He didn’t just donate money, which is honorable in its own right, but he actually went there to Tanzania, interacting with the people, the same people he may be saving from a potentially life-threatening disease.

These days, one is more likely to find coverage of an ongoing scandal than an actual highlight on SportsCenter, never mind a heart-warming and inspirational story like this. Whether it is the issue of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) in baseball and the resulting fiasco surrounding it, the criminal cases that are being tried, the numerous suspensions of college athletes for various infractions, it makes you wonder where the actual sports have gone: the ones we all grew up playing and watching and from which we have lifelong memories. Does power and money truly corrupt? Is that just a part of human nature, whether you are an athlete or not? Have we idolized these people to a point where we expect greatness and unbelievable abilities, even if it means they lack character in doing so and we are content with turning a blind eye to that?

Curry’s story may take a backseat on ESPN every night to other developments in the sporting world, but it certainly shouldn’t. Those stories seem to overshadow the ones that feature so many athletes contributing to the betterment of our world, through donations, charities, or other means. Curry, like many others whose great works for humanity may fly under the radar, is using his stardom, his money, and his power to change the world, not allowing that money and power to change him. Stephen Curry has proven that he is an elite basketball player, but, way more importantly, he is a good person. As the aforementioned article describes, he is a loving husband and father, and he is making a difference in the world. It is admirable. It is inspirational. It is the epitome of integrity.

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The Greek Sense of Time

The white-washed stone houses and blue domes of the churches of the cliffside village of Oia, Santorini.

We were finally there, to experience the sight I had always stared at in the picturesque photograph above my desk. I had dreamt of seeing the sunset over the crystal clear blue water of the Aegean Sea, bouncing off the white cliffside houses and the blue domes of the churches of Santorini. My grandparents had told me about that same exact scene when they had seen it many years ago, as had my parents when they had visited decades after. Now, my opportunity had finally arrived to take in that timeless experience, to turn that dream into reality.

Sunset in Oia, Santorini.

Sitting there at a small café overlooking apartments, other shops, and alley ways that zig-zagged their way to the water, time did not even seem to exist. Gradually, shadows began to appear on the glistening white buildings as the sun made its way down to the edge of the water. The sky changed from a cloudless blue to an incredible orange before a red sphere finally descended below the horizon, leaving all of us amazed by the beautiful and timeless sunset we had just seen. When we reluctantly stood up and retraced our tracks into the heart of the village, we realized more than four hours had passed.

While taking in the sunset off of Santorini, time stopped: the moment itself seemingly transcending the element of time. It is an experience for which words cannot due justice and whose beauty cannot sufficiently be captured in pictures. However, this idea of time passing as we embraced the moment was nothing new to me.

When I was a kid, a second generation Greek-American who was fully immersed in American culture, family get-togethers were all day affairs. It didn’t matter what event it was – a birthday, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, or just a regular dinner – we would all be together, eating endless amounts of food, sharing stories, watching TV, eating dessert, laughing, going for seconds and thirds, and continuing to talk. Just like the sun setting on Santorini, eventually it would get dark and then hours later, relatives began to fall asleep, one by one on the couch. We were all tired but nobody realized what time it was nor wanted to leave. By the early hours of the morning, wives had to wake up husbands so fathers could drive their exhausted children home for the night, and we all slept extremely well, on stomachs full of delicious food and hearts full of family love.

I have always cherished this aspect of my family: the closeness, the warmth, the hospitality, the experiences that caused us to lose track of time. I am not sure if this is a characteristic of our family alone or Greeks as a whole (or for that matter, that of many other heritages). However, after recently making my first visit to my ancestral homeland, I noticed many similar characteristics and a lifestyle that embraced the moment and allowed time to adapt to it, instead of the other way around. I felt right at home, to the say the very least.

Timeless pergola in Kifisia built by our great-grandfather.

While we stayed at our aunts’ house in Kifisia (a suburb of Athens), we enjoyed long dinners outside on the terrace beneath a pergola, the same pergola that was built by my great-grandfather nearly a century ago. Like that timeless pergola, we discussed aged-old topics of politics, economics, ethics, family, etc. at the table as that same sun began to set over Athens. Just like at home when my mom used to cook for us, dinner was not just a meal – a mere ingestion of food and energy – it was a part of the day, an event to come together and share our experiences and thoughts, while eating delicious home-cooked food, of course. Every night we were there in Kifisia, we sat out there beneath the pergola until late at night, and then took the conversation inside until the early hours of the morning. My aunts and uncles would be up at the crack of dawn with their small children, yet this was customary for them, to eat late, to talk, to enjoy the moment, to embrace life.

It was not long into my visit to Greece when I realized that although I had a schedule of things I would like to do, I had to be ready to adapt that schedule, as was the case when a salesman, completely unprompted, shared his life story with us, showed us clips of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin on YouTube from his computer on his desk while narrating them himself in his Bulgarian accent (as an introduction to the Greek island of Kefalonia where the movie was filmed), served us a Greek coffee and then analyzed our fate based on the grounds at the bottom (a Greek tradition). Finally, we received our tickets for the tour we wanted to go on the next day. He discounted the price for us on the fly, maybe because we were Greek or maybe because we had been good listeners, that is still a mystery. We left the travel agency slightly perplexed and shaking our heads wondering what exactly just happened, and of course, we were late for dinner at our aunts’ house.

This instance reminded us of the times we had just stopped by our Yiayia’s house to drop something off for our dad when she told us to sit down and that she would make us something to eat. Even if we had just eaten prior to arriving, there was no stopping her, as she insisted that we were hungry. Before we knew it, we were there for hours, hearing old and new stories about the family, ones we now know by heart and that we will be able to pass down one day to our kids. Whether it is a 5-minute transaction at the travel agency or a 5-minute stop at Yiayia’s house, we lost track of time as we became absorbed in the moment and enjoyed every unexpected minute of it.

Perhaps my favorite example of this Greek phenomenon of timelessness was our Santorini beach adventure. My brother and I woke up early and went to one of the many beautiful beaches on the island. By a little after midday, we were ready to return to our hotel and eat lunch, which was a 20-minute bus ride from the beach. We walked from the beach to the bus stop at the corner and sat down as we waited for our bus. One bus after another came, and each turned right at the intersection before our stop. A half an hour passed, then an hour, and still no bus continued straight down the road to our destination. In the meantime, people began to gather with us at this stop and we all waited in unison under the clear blue sky and afternoon sun.

Finally, after about an hour and a half, the bus, which is supposed to run every 30 minutes, did not turn right and came to our stop. Two loud, hairy Greek men stepped out and started yelling a mixture of Greek and English phrases and ushered people with incredible made-for-Broadway hand gestures onto an absolutely packed bus. We stood in the aisle as the bus driver cruised down the windy road, occasionally interrupting his conversation on his cell phone with the restaurant owner who was preparing his meal to announce the next stop. We were one stop away from our road to the hotel when the bus stopped and remained motionless for several minutes. We thought maybe there was an issue with the bus. Nope, that would have actually made sense! Instead, we looked out the window to see the bus driver’s assistant walking from the restaurant across the street carrying several coffees for himself and his colleagues. With coffee in hand, the bus driver was ready to continue the journey home. When he dropped us off at the last stop, we noticed him get out as well and enter that restaurant he had been on the phone with, sit down, relax, and enjoy the meal he had ordered earlier with several other people.

While we were waiting for that infamous bus, a nice middle-aged British couple sat down next to us. Like them, we continued to get up with each bus that came down the hill, only to sit back down when it turned instead of coming to pick us up. We all laughed together, and after finding out that we were Greek, the British couple asked, “Oh, then this is nothing new to you: you must be very familiar with GMT?”

I looked at my brother and I shook my head, slightly embarrassed that I did not know this special aspect of our heritage. He answered the question he could clearly see on my face: “Greek Maybe Time.” We all started laughing again. It was the first time I had ever heard that expression and it could not have been more accurate. Apparently, he too was aware of the Greek way of life, one that is not determined by the hands of the clock, but seems to have a pace of its own. When I asked him why he and his wife continue to travel to Greece every year when they have the rest of Europe, and the world for that matter, at their disposal, and especially given the harsh economic and political climate in Greece, he simply said, “It’s the people here. They are so warm and welcoming. You really don’t find such a thing anywhere else.”

I nodded my head feeling good on the inside. Greeks, from my experience, have a certain unique relationship with time, and that relationship makes their personal interactions that much more genuine and warm. No matter what, they take the time to introduce themselves, learn about you, discuss anything and everything. In Greece, you may wait a while for your bus, but the memories you will have from sharing your experiences with people who truly live to enjoy life, regardless of the time it takes to do so, will last forever. For Greeks, at least as far as I have found to be true, time does not control their lives; it merely elapses whilst they live it.

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Different Dates, Universal Meaning

The sun was gradually setting on a beautiful spring evening, lowering in the sky with the last few rays making their way through the church windows and reflecting off of the large icons on the inner dome of the cathedral and behind the altar. The white stone walls, the red clay roof, and the blue of the dome combined with the colorful sky to resemble a picturesque church set on a Grecian island in the Mediterranean. There, just as here across the Atlantic, Greek hymns and the words from the Scriptures were being heard and reflected upon during Holy Week.

As those words sunk in, both in English and Greek, and the last rays disappeared as night emerged, there was a calming and peaceful ambiance inside the church. After a long day of work, the fellow parishioners, the words and teachings, and the reflective atmosphere reinvigorated the mind, the body, and the soul. It was a long week, but it was an important one too, for Holy Week – culminating in the Resurrection and Divine Liturgy at midnight on Saturday night – represents the core of Christian beliefs, and for Orthodox Christians, that week fell five weeks after the same one for all other Christians this year.

“Doesn’t it seem a bit ridiculous that we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on different days; after all, he did only die and rise once, right?” That thought and question from a Catholic friend lingered in the back of my mind throughout Lent and as I sat there in the pew listening to those words and watching day turn to night. It was a genuine question, not asked to critique one set of beliefs in relation to the other; rather to understand the difference, its origins, and what it meant. And it was a question that proved to be both informative and revealing as I sought the answer.

I had researched the reason for the difference in dates, which has to do with the use of different calendars (Julian for Orthodox Christians, Gregorian for all other denominations) and the timing of Passover. (For a great analysis of these two factors contributing to the often different date of Orthodox Easter, read this short but very informative article that my Greek Orthodox friend brought to my attention: Why Orthodox Christians Celebrate Easter After the Western World.)

Every time I go to church, I learn something new and I reflect on how that message stemming from Christian beliefs can be applied to the diverse world we live in, regardless of one’s beliefs. This year, I tried to find an answer for my friend that went beyond the technical research. As shown below, there are numerous belief systems throughout the world. However, despite many differences, there are many transcendent similarities common to humanity, regardless of religion.

                                     World Religions and Breakdown of Christian Denominations*          

World Religions

Last year, as I wrote in this article, At the Crossroads of Progress & TraditionI found this message from Gandhi, who was referenced in a speech I heard by Patriarch Bartholomew and whose words were shared in my cathedral back home during Lent, truly profound: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Gandhi, a Hindu, delivered a message that was meaningful to all of humanity, including the Christians in our cathedral. This year, as I attended the last of five Friday services during Lent devoted to the Virgin Mary, I learned that we rejoice in her being there for us; to console and comfort us in difficult times, to aid us with our ailments (pertaining to both the body and the soul), to be the human intercession between this world and the heavens.

I looked at her icon behind the altar, the Theotokos (Θεοτόκος – “God-bearer”), with her arms wide open ready to embrace us, and I thought of how we all need people in our lives to be there for us, to assist us, to console us, to confide in, to comfort us, to allow us to make it through adversity, for this world will surely present its challenges and difficulties. It became apparent to me that, no matter if you are Christian or not, we all need those people in our lives who are welcoming us with their arms open. Sometimes we may even be that person who someone else turns to for help, and we need to be able to keep our arms open to welcome that person in.

Likewise, directly above, an icon of the Christian savior, Jesus Christ, glistened in the final minutes of dusk. It was Holy Week, and we were celebrating His death and resurrection, His sacrifice to save us; His life, death, and resurrection lighting the way to salvation in what can be a very dark world at times. One aspect – the sacrifice – resonated with my mind and soul the most this past week.

In order for this world to function, we have to sacrifice. As shown above, there are many different ways of life around the world. If we only concentrate on our own, and do not sacrifice some of our individuality in order to understand and accept others, there is no chance of coexistence. We need to sacrifice in relationships – whether it is with friends, siblings, partners, etc. – for those relationships to survive and thrive. We sacrifice everyday on a micro level, but on a macro level, that sacrifice leads to greater tolerance and understanding and less oppression and persecution.

This year, Orthodox Easter happened to fall five weeks after the Easter in which my Catholic friend celebrated. Her question was not only valid, but eye-opening. It made me realize that not only are there differences between our world religions, but there are also differences within those religions themselves. Even within Christianity, there are numerous denominations that have theological or traditional differences, their significance varying across sects. But just as Gandhi’s words have meaning for Christians, Christian teachings and beliefs can have meaning for all those around the world. Despite the differences and technicalities that may lead to the celebration of Easter on different dates, the underlying meaning behind those events and beliefs transcend those differences and permeate throughout all of humanity.

While pondering that question from my friend, although I have found the reasons for the divergence in dates, I have realized that the meaning behind those events remain the same. That meaning is pervasive, spreading across the world and among all belief systems, for forgiveness, acceptance, sympathy, and sacrifice are not unique to Christianity, but, in fact, common and crucial to all of humanity. Identifying the differences, understanding the reasons for them, and then realizing the commonalities that overshadow those differences can lead to a more peaceful world.

Χριστός Aνέστη to all fellow Greek Orthodox Christians and Happy Easter to all Christians, regardless of the date upon which is celebrated. There are differences among the various denominations of Christianity, and there are vast differences among our numerous world religions. Recognizing those differences and understanding them along with the common themes, values, and meaning that underlie each of them – and are in fact common to humanity – makes for a more tolerant, accepting, and peaceful world.

*Source: CIA World Factbook, World Religions. Population estimates as of 2010.

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United Behind our Selfless Civil Servants

Third graders run into their classroom, backpacks bobbing up and down on their shoulders as they find their desks, only to quickly remove their belongings and congregate with friends. Conversations, keep-away, tag, games of catch with tape-balls commence. The morning bell finally sounds at 8:15 and the teacher rises from her desk to address the students, lead the Pledge of Allegiance, and outline the agenda for the day.

Basketballs fly through the air to each of the six hoops in the school gymnasium prior to an afternoon practice. Some shoot free throws while others play a game of 3-on-3. In walks one of the head coaches, his hat under his arm, standing tall in his black police uniform, gun in holster. He chats briefly with the other head coach before a loud, bellowing yell reverberates throughout the gym, “On the line.” The squad of 12-14 year-olds lineup on the baseline and await the whistle for the first of several sprints followed by numerous drills.

Runners approach the finish line of the heralded Boston Marathon on Patriot’s day. More than four hours have passed and their eyes are on their long-awaited achievement, only feet away. They survived “Heartbreak Hill,” yet before they can celebrate their feat with friends and family, their hearts, along with millions of others, are broken, when bombs explode nearby, ruining an historic event. Police rush to the site of the explosion and volunteers attend to injured people covered in blood and shards of glass.

She came home every day with several books and stacks of papers in hand. My brother and I would often meet our Mom halfway on her journey from the car to the kitchen and help carry her materials from school. I watched as she stayed up late at night to grade papers well after the last bell had rung at 3:00 that afternoon. I went with her to school over the summer to play basketball as she spent countless hours re-organizing her classroom and refining her lesson plans. Every year was yet another opportunity to capture those bundles of energy that entered her classroom and mold them into the people who would one day do great things, to begin to fill those “blank slates” with valuable information that would be used on their journey through life.

The only police officer I have known was my middle school basketball coach. For the practices he could attend during my three years on the team, he usually arrived after or during his shift. He brought with him a simultaneous aura of pride and intimidation, standing tall with his shining badge and uncorking resonating critiques when a play went awry. His practices instilled within us discipline and a passion for the game, as he urged us to hold sacred the time we spent within the lines of the court and away from everything else in the world. His approach to the game did much more than teach us about a wonderful sport; it left us with unforgettable life lessons. Before each game, there were no more deafening teaching points. He would just look at all of us in the eyes and with a smile on his face he would say, “Enjoy this moment boys; it will go by all too fast.”

On this past Patriot’s Day in Boston, MA, we saw the chaotic scenes on Boylston Street in horrifying video clips, as people scurried from two explosions at the end of the prestigious Boston Marathon. Immediately though, police officers, EMTs, and volunteers rushed to the smoky scenes to begin to restore order. They did not think about their own lives, only the ones of those around them; the people they could help, whether it was by securing the area or providing assistance to a victim. Boston Police has been on call the past few days to maintain that security and to protect us while nurses and doctors have been attending to those injured at the numerous downtown hospitals.

An explosion sends the common person running in the opposite direction, a natural reaction of survival. However, for some, their own survival takes a backseat to the welfare of others. As others run away, they run towards the disaster, their natural reaction to such an event: to protect and help those in need. It is an innate trait in those who put their own lives in harm’s way for our protection. These are police officers, firefighters, EMT workers, and race volunteers who brought a calming influence to an otherwise chaotic scene.

The events in Boston struck close to home, both literally and figuratively. Upon hearing the news, I immediately texted my Dad to make sure my family members in Massachusetts were alright. Then images of friends who once sat in my Mom’s third grade classroom, who used to roam the halls with me at our elementary school, many of whom ran those sprints with me after school in those practices, came to mind. I wondered who would have been there. The injury tally kept climbing and different faces kept popping into my head.

Just like those hallways and that baseline, I had walked Boylston Street numerous times. I took it for granted then, just like I did when I was a third-grader or a middle school student striving to be a better basketball player. I did not appreciate what these people were doing for me. They were putting our lives ahead of theirs, and it took years for me to cherish those moments and memories, as my coach once advised so genuinely. He, a police officer, knew all too well how precious life is and how fleeting it can be.

We witnessed acts of courage from our civil servants on Monday. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragic event to remind us of those selfless people around us,* the ones who quietly play their role and allow our world to function with some sort of order as we go about our daily lives. They did not choose the occupation for the accolades, the press, or the compensation. They chose it because of that unique ambition to serve the community and better our society, to provide order to an otherwise entropic world. The majority will remain anonymous: those third grade teachers, those local police officers who coach basketball on the side, those Boston Police and SWAT team members who responded immediately to the tragic events on Monday. However, their efforts as a whole have not gone unnoticed.

There are no words to express the appreciation for protection, security, and a learning environment created by these people. You have provided and continuously work to maintain a sturdy foundation upon which our society can grow and prosper. All of you civil servants – policemen, firefighters, teachers, and many others – you keep order and a sense of normalcy in an otherwise chaotic world. You are there for us in both good and bad times. You deserve much more, but at the very least, know that we say “thank you.”

*In addition to the civil servants (police officers, EMTs, etc.) who acted so selflessly this past Monday in the wake of this tragedy, there have been numerous locals in Boston that have opened up their arms (and doors) to console people from around the world who had traveled to the city for the historic race. The horrible acts did not cripple the people of Boston. It has only made us stronger, the fundamental human bond showing through as strangers assist one another in a time of need. There are numerous accounts of locals attending to those maimed by the explosions, tending to those exhausted from the race, and offering whatever support they could in the hours and days after those tragic events. Such selflessness exemplifies the incredible power of the human spirit.

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