When I heard about the Boston Bombings, my heart dropped into my stomach. It wasn’t because I had loved ones at the marathon, but because I feel so strongly connected to the running community, my community. I simply could not comprehend how anyone would want to hurt a group of people who were participating in an event so pure-minded and non-political.
If I may be honest here, I have a confession to make. The outrage and pain I felt last Monday was 100 times anything I felt on 9/11. Now, I can absolutely tell you where I was and what exactly I was doing when 9/11 occurred—even more so because I didn’t just happen to pick up my smart phone and read it on Facebook. It was a happening. I was in college, picking up a cyberwrap for lunch in the café on the main floor in the student center. People started pouring in, unbelieving and in tears, telling everyone that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. My roommate and I swiftly left and holed up in our apartment, staring aghast at the tv for the next several days. I was horrified for the people that were there and who had loved ones, and felt assaulted on behalf of my country, but I also felt blessedly removed from the whole thing. It stuck with me, of course, like it stuck with every American, but I was able to leave it behind me, to a certain extent.
But Monday’s event stayed with me. In my heart, every single person there was a brother or sister, and I had a front row seat to their anguish. This is because I am a part of a thriving and loving community. It’s not just my close friends or Portland runners that I associate with. I read runners’ blogs written by people all over the earth. When I comment on their blogs, they acknowledge me like family, when in real life we have never seen each other’s faces or touched. I can’t explain the closeness I have come to feel with these people, but I value it so much.
In addition to the events in Boston, I also learned that a pillar of the salsa community passed away recently. I was never more than an acquaintance to Manuel, but I do recall being genuinely warmed by his presence at the small taqueria on Sunday evenings where I go salsa dancing. I imagine he was well into his eighties by the time I met him, but he obviously made a big impression on the salsa community. It touched me to see the memorials to him. I never even knew his last name, but he was important to me because he represented all the generations of salsa lovers uniting. His death got me thinking about my own send off. I don’t mean to be morbid here, but I think it’s perfectly natural to wonder who is going to show up at your funeral.
All of this lead me to start pondering my “place.” I’m one of those people who has always belonged to multiple groups. I consider myself a card carrying member of the salsa and running communities, obviously, but also belly dancers, Quakers, hikers, and I’m sure there are others. I have always felt the need to categorize everything, including my friendships. Some people say that it is not important, that the world is our friendship circle, so why bother to categorize. It is not my intent to exclude anyone, but I also believe strongly that every person in my life is in my life for a specific reason. Having these groups helps me keep track of their lessons and at the same time allows me to bring others together to experience those lessons as well.
Who do we turn to when bad things happen? Our loved ones. The people who can somehow make it all better, or at least try, when things get hairy. Life thrives on love. So if we indulge ourselves once in a while by being corralled into certain groups of people, I’m okay with it. As long as the net around the corral is open to the flow, there will always be enough of me to go around, and it makes me stronger knowing that I have a community of friends right alongside me when bad things happen.