finish line.

I lived halfway.

Wellesley College sits at the halfway mark of the Boston Marathon. And on Patriot’s Day every spring, we stood.

By the side of the road we stood and cheered from dawn, when the wheelchair athletes flew by, to the hours and hours and hours and hours later when the last runners, often those in their 70’s and 80’s tortoised by. We stood. We gave water. We showered encouragement. And we roared. About a mile before the course reached us, we were heard. The runners would turn the corner, and begin up the long, slow rise and the pain would fade and they would feel with their hearts instead of their feet.

Sweat might not seem sacred, but it sure felt that way to me. Those days in April, on the side of the road, hold some of the deepest moments of connection to humanity, to the masses, that I know. And that is what our children need right now. Because one of my son’s comments after we explained the shooting in Newtown, CT has stayed with me. “No, I don’t have any questions. I’m still processing Super Storm Sandy, Mom. I’m overwhelmed.”

And now, aren’t we all? So here’s how to help our children.

Tread Lightly. It is tempting as the story unfolds to follow every moment on the news and social media. Don’t. Turn it off. If you want, check in at the top of the hour for updates. Older kids are getting fatigued into numbness and youngsters often think the replay images are fresh attacks.

Speak in Sound bites. Just as with Newtown, give children brief facts and information. Then listen. Listen to the nuance of their confusion, questions and comments. Follow their lead. Then (re)assure them. Remind them of all the helpers.

Stay the Course. We all thrive on routine, and this is especially true in times of trauma. Keep children on their regular schedules. Familiarity breeds comfort.

Look at each Step. Yes, the media will focus injury and death. But we can talk about life. And all the days each person had before today. And all the people who loved them, and whom they loved. And how, even after someone is gone, they are not gone. They are within us.

Find the Sacred Sweat. Look for those who need support. It may mean donating resources, time or expertise to Boston. It many mean doing all these same thing in our own backyards. Help your kids find ways to contribute. When we give of ourselves, we learn we are capable. When we realize we can overcome, our resiliency for future events is stronger.

None of us knows the location of our life’s finish line. But we can live each day as halfway. And we can roar for all of humanity. Years ago we stood. We stood for Boston. Stand with me?


This piece stands alone, but is also a companion to what I wrote for parents after the tragedy in Newtown, CT. To read that, click here.

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