Things were quiet in Nicaragua last week, a good change from the previous week’s earthquake-filled excitements. They were quiet for another reason, too. This was holy week, a time when Nicaraguan life in general slows down to allow reflection about this meaningful time in the Christian church. There are celebrations and observances and worship, of course, as time approaches the hope-filled day of Easter. Hope is a major need in Nicaragua, and any occasion to reinforce optimism is cherished. Nicaraguans continuously hope for change, even as the Christians among them contemplate their religious faith at this most important time of the year.
There were similar slowdowns taking place elsewhere around the world, and for many of the same reasons. The approach of Easter provides a context for pausing just a moment and reflecting about the state of the world and our own lives in it. We become engaged in a type of collective contemplation about conflict and resolution, forgiveness and redemption. Even those who consider themselves less than faithful admit to at least moments of such thoughtfulness, intrigued by visions of what “could be” in this life.
It’s a freeing and valuable process, this immersion into calmer waters of contemplation. We can temporarily transport ourselves to more peaceful places and imagine a world more worthy of the sacrifice that Easter represents. There is a certain sense of serenity and healing, and we are left pondering what the world might be like if it could only experience such tranquillity more permanently; the longing for peace lies deep and innately within us.
Regrettably, such ruminations do not last long. The immensity of the difficulties faced by all of humanity are too great, too deeply-seated to encourage long deliberation. Like the very universe we inhabit, the enormity and complexity of our collective lives is more than we can tolerate in anything but small moments. Faced with such proportions, we feel small, impotent, frozen in indecision. Even those of us privileged to work with institutions which possess resources for change, the obstacles to hope are titanic: where to start, when to proceed, how to finish.
I was thinking about these things during Easter week, indulging in dreams, imagining a different worldly model and my place in it, envisioning creative initiatives but always stumbling before the mountain of reality. And quite unexpectedly, I received a stunning affirmation of a truth well-known but under-appreciated.
As the United States approached the first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing, news coverage took on a decidedly Boston feel. News stories of survivors and heroes and those determined to stage an even better and stronger Boston Marathon filled nearly every newscast during last week. Vignettes about enhanced security salved the fears of even the anxious among the “Boston strong.” But it wasn’t the flexing of security muscles or determined runners or dedicated first responders that caught my attention. Rather, the message came from an eight year-old little boy.
Martin Richard died at last year’s marathon bombing. Much has been written and recited about him from his family and others who knew him. He was, in most ways, quite typical for an eight year-old. But what captured my attention and reminded me of where I stand in this complexity called human existence, was a photograph of Martin holding a sign that he had fashioned as part of a school initiative. In eight year-old lettering of simplistic truth were his words, “No more hurting people.”
Perhaps you have seen the image, too. It is heartbreaking and ironic and a message seared into our history now as an iconic lesson. It’s simple: stop hurting one another.
The lesson is one-size-fits-all. It’s the one thing you and I can do in the face of impossibility. At work, in our homes, our neighborhoods, within our communities and relationships, at every venue we inhabit, Martin’s call is for no more hurting people. The words set a simple standard against which our decisions and actions can be honestly regarded as to their true intent and content. We know what we intend, and we know if there is hurt within. It’s as true in Nicaragua as in the U.S. and every place where human thought and emotion take place.
The filter is simple; the discipline and the desire to live by it are not. We would be naive to presume that such a strategy is as easy as making up our minds. Yet those who engage in contemplative reflection are not likely to expect easy resolution to hard matters. To the contrary, to engage in the search is to admit the hard work of any quest for a more sensible human existence. During this past week of reflection and introspection, perhaps the gravity and poignancy of Martin’s sign tells us all we need to know for now….