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You wield valuable tools in a world that doesn’t make sense. Wield them well.

April 18, 2013

It’s been that kind of a week.

Yesterday morning, the normally gracious and unflappable woman on the local morning radio show went off on a, ummm, gentleman who called the station to off the air to say (apparently forcefully) that it was social engineering to try to get a high school in Georgia to desegregate their  proms. She’s been on Tampa radio for the better part of ten years and I’ve never heard her angry on the air.

Of course, that happened during a week that’s featured Tax Day, a double bomb attack at the Boston Marathon, and two Ricin-laced letters (so far) sent to our political leaders in Washington. Then there was the fertilizer plant explosion that destroyed an entire town in Texas, killing dozens, including first responders who were fighting the fire that probably caused the explosion.

An eight-year-old boy died in the marathon bombing, along with a 29-year-old woman, and a Boston University graduate student. A suspect was detained and questioned. Or not. Then a man who may have been dark-skinned or not was arrested yesterday afternoon. Or not.

And it’s just Thursday morning.

An ESPN article referenced eloquent words in response to the marathon bombing by Dennis Lehane, Charles Pierce, and others.

A perfect day. This man proposed after finishing the Boston Marathon Monday. An hour later, perfection was ruined.

Boston Globe columnist Kevin Cullen’s references to a perfect day, were most touching, calling to mind another perfect day more than eleven and a half years ago. His reference to the plight of the eight-year-old victim and his family showed the ultimate imperfection (an almost criminally lacking word) of the day:

[Firefighters] said one of the dead was an 8-year-old boy from Dorchester who had gone out to hug his dad after he crossed the finish line. The dad walked on; the boy went back to the sidewalk to join his mom and his little sister. And then the bomb went off. The boy was killed. His sister’s leg was blown off. His mother was badly injured.

The words that echoed in my mind were far less eloquent and measured, from an old Kurt Russell movie released in 1986 (below).  That year Boston experienced a tragedy it collectively thought would top all others when the Red Sox lost the World Series to the Mets after being one strike away from winning. At the time, 1986 didn’t seem so innocent.

It was with words that we spoke of the bombings that afternoon and evening, then the next day at work. It was with words that the radio host vented her exasperation at a twit with a telephone and moved on. It was with words that we expressed rage and shock and anger and the desire to find the cretin who needlessly created a gaping sore in so many lives. It is with words that we will ultimately come to terms with what happened and move forward with the next thing until another cretin in another location forces us to use similar words in a similar way.

The people who are skilled at using words to express the emotions of the masses, whether they do it in fiction, non-fiction, a newspaper article, or the script for a silly comedy-action movie, are doing more than their jobs. They’re creating an emotional commuter train that allows us to see the hideous in the world, experience it, and channel our feelings, then move on. Someone will read the words used to express these collective thoughts and feelings this week, and they’ll make a decision. And somewhere down the road they’ll win the Nobel Peace Prize, or counsel someone away from a destructive end, or be a better mother or father than they had.

All because someone decided to put down in words what they were thinking and feeling.

Never again assume that your words are unimportant.

  1. April 18, 2013 6:42 am

    Your parting words are so true. Just look at Harper Lee. Her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” is believed to have influenced the tide of the civil rights movement.

  2. April 18, 2013 9:08 am

    Great reminder to us all, Chris. If I could positively influence one person’s life, I would be elated. For many of us, we’ll never know our impact on society. The negative broadcasts into our lives through media seem endless at times, making the push to feed positive fuel back into the world so much more important today.

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