Tumbling Under My Skin: Suffering and Response a Year Later


I can’t quite explain the feeling but I have been very uncomfortable today.

My uncomfortable feeling, a tumbling just underneath my skin, falls somewhere between Reverend Laura Everett’s post on #BostonStrong and Br. Matt’s thoughts on remembering more than evil. I remember April 15 last year. I was working on homework from my office with the window open, the cheering from Comm Ave going past Boston College pouring in and keeping me company. I remember noticing when it became quiet. I felt the same tumbling under my skin. I remember waking up the following Friday and realizing I wouldn’t be going into class or work that day because the city had been shut down for a ‘man-hunt.’ The tumbling feeling got worse every time the word ‘man-hunt’ was uttered – and it still does. I remember seeing my undergraduate students later that night posting photos of  the cheering and partying to celebrate that the ‘man-hunt’ had captured its prey.

My heart hurts for those wounded by the bombings a year ago. For those who were physically and emotionally hurt that I don’t know. For my undergraduate students I work with who were at or near the site and suffered in their own ways. My heart also hurts for those I don’t know who frequently or occasionally suffer violence. Who are not seen as important enough to warrant shutting down an entire city.

I remember a chaplain I knew in college. I distinctly remember her cutting me off once. I don’t even remember what I was talking about. But she told me very clearly – Don’t compare sufferings. There wasn’t a whole lot to it. Just simply don’t do it. Everyone suffers. Take all suffering seriously. And today so many people’s suffering comes to mind…

The suffering of everyone who was a victim in a slew of different ways last April 15. The suffering of everyone who lives with violence. The added suffering of being forgotten, put to the side, and not considered worthy of news, city shut downs, public memorials or fundraising. The suffering of the Tsarnaev brothers who felt so ostracized that they felt led to violence.

I cannot and will not compare these sufferings. They are a result of so many wrongs and evils in the world. I can, however, compare how they, others and myself choose to respond to suffering. Some respond with more violence – with bombs, guns, fists, even violent words. Some, like the city of Boston, respond with many of the public memorials that will occur today. Some hope we respond to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev with the death penalty.  For many sufferings in the world, however, myself and so many others simply don’t respond. Unintentionally or purposefully, we compare sufferings and decide which ones deserve our notice, thoughts, money and prayers.

I hate this tumbling under my skin. I am also grateful it’s there. I should be uncomfortable that there were bombs set off last year. That people suffer violence in this city and so many places in this world all the time.  We shouldn’t compare sufferings – but we sure as hell should compare how we respond.


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