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Tottering toward the future

Apr 25, 2013 - By Clair McFarland

I admit that the light-hearted commentary isn't really coming to me this week. There are no personality quirks, no local oddities, and no minor annoyances to divulge.

Since last Monday, when my complaints of post-run soreness of the knee were met with reports about runners who had lost their knees altogether, I've been nursing a heartache over -- and on behalf of -- Boston.

Just when my heartache reached its peak, or, the point at which my thoughts tried to put the pieces of the senseless puzzle together into logic, that same aching heart threatened to become cynical. None of it made sense, and my inability to understand dragged me to a jaded precipice.

It was upon that precipice that I sat, surrounded by toys and smiling faces, when one event occurred that demanded a lapse in the vicarious grief in which I dwelled: My youngest son walked to me for the first time.

Previously in his toddler career he had taken one, two, or three steps at a time, always to fall or sink down in cautionary fear. But this! This was a mission completed. He beamed at me, swayed all over, flexed his stubby feet, and tottered right into my arms. There, he expressed his pride by nuzzling my shoulder with his chin, and by emitting that laugh of pure love of which only babies are capable.

How odd, I thought, that as so many people lost their legs, my son would finally gain his -- not in defiance of everyone's grief, but in oblivion of it and innocence toward it.

Though the whole nation suffers with Boston, nothing, however dark and doubt-inspiring, can stop the child from putting one foot in front of the other until his finish line is behind him.

Surely the disaster that occurred at the Boston Marathon as runners finished that endeavor -- that celebration of human perseverance -- could not be eclipsed by the beaming face of a baby at his first finish line, the threshold of his mother's embrace. However, the speck of covering which his mission offered to the garish inferno of the Boston finish line did hide the blaze from my mind long enough for me to know this: I will not become a cynic.

Because millions of babies in this world totter forward, heedless of their fears, without entertaining suspicion toward mankind, and without entertaining doubts about the quality of the finish line, I have no choice but to do the same.

Know that it is not my wish to undermine the cruelty with which runners and spectators were greeted last Monday. These people were wronged, far outside the bounds of logical action. My heart still breaks for them, as it should. However, for me to come to the conclusion that the world of today is bent on self-destruction, and that I am better off staying inside with my own clan than venturing out to find or create good, is a defeatist reaction. And a useless one.

Here, in this darkness, humans are given a chance to cast light. How can we do this? How can we run the race when even the finish line is fraught with peril? Just like a baby does: one fearless step at a time.

I don't have an opinion about the bombers, the conspiracy theories, the father in Russia, or the FBI. All of those elements are beyond my capacity for understanding and quite above my pay grade and time allotment. (Meaning, no one asked me to go on an espionage spree, and my doing so would do no good anyway.)

So, with utmost respect and sympathy to the victims, their families, and the city of Boston, I will look at my son's perseverance as an eclipse to dim the grief. No matter how cruelly people behave, no matter how many times the world must grieve, the babies keep on tottering.

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