While skimming articles, pictures, and videos of the horrific Boston Marathon bombing, I keep noticing how some people were running towards the bomb blasts to help while everyone else was running away. I wonder- what makes some people run in when everyone else is fleeing? Many people stood out as heroes- the Boston police, first responders, even a former Patriot’s football player- but one especially caught my attention. You may have seen the pics of the big guy in the cowboy hat named Carlos Arredando.
What motivates relatively ordinary people to do heroic acts?
Would I have the guts to do the same?
Most of us won’t find ourselves in a suddenly tragic situation where we instantly have to decide between running into a bomb blast or fleeing the scene. Most of the death and destruction we encounter is far more gradual but the cumulative effective is no less destructive. Every day we are surrounded by individuals and families who experience a progressive process of decay and death in their lives- a process driven by poverty, addictions, relational isolation, depravity, and spiritual emptiness. Our response will require calculation, probably won’t make the evening news, but the impact is no less heroic. Every day we’re making decisions about whether to “run into the fire” or “flee the scene for safety.” Will we choose supposed comfort and safety or enter the destructive mess of lives around us?
This past Monday, I had dinner with two individuals who have decided to run in when others are running out.
- Brian C after graduating from the University of Vermont took a job with a statewide non-profit as a family support case manager. He spends all day walking families through some major crisis and helping them develop a plan. I’ve heard him say what many of these at risk families need is not more social workers, but healthy neighbors who are willing to befriend them and walk through life with them. Almost a year ago Brian did the unthinkable for many with his job. He moved into the most impoverished neighborhood in the state. After counseling families as a professional, he interacts with many others as neighbor and friend. Now he leads others in his Gospel Community to do the same.
- Steph H has an incredible heart for refugee families and they know it. She officially works for the Navigators serving as a bridge between college students and the community. Last year Steph and two of her former students moved into West Winooski- Vermont’s second most diverse neighborhood. Neighbors include former refugees from Nepal, Burundi, and Somalia with an Islamic community center just around the corner. Their living room often looks like a United Nations children’s convention with the occasional single mom stopping by. While many people have chosen to relocate to “better” neighborhoods, these ladies have moved in, opening their home and their lives.
Neither Brian or Steph will make the evening news. Neither will they receive a hero’s welcome. Both have been an example for me of what it looks like to run in while others run out. Thanks guys.