A day or so after my grandfather died in 2001, my dad and I were at home stumbling through the motions of making breakfast or something when he mentioned that upon stepping outside that morning, he'd found two homemade pies that his coworker Buddy had left on our front porch. Immediately, and repeatedly over the next couple days, it wasn't Papa's death or Grandma's loss of her husband of almost sixty-two years or the knowledge of other family members' pain that made me cry, but instead those damned pies. I cried over the pies even while agreeing with Dad how good it had been of his coworker to offer them. The mental picture of those disposable foil pans left without fanfare on our porch made me cry awhile later as I dressed for the viewing. A stretch of time would then pass in which I'd be calm, in that rubbed-raw weariness that grief brings on, and then the pies would return to mind and I would feel my face crumpling up again. Soon enough, the full weight of Papa's death hit me, of course, but until the initial shock wore off, my tears were for the kindness that leads a person to buy the pans and the ingredients, to take the time out of one's own life to follow a recipe and to wait for pies to bake and then for them to cool, to wrap them up, and finally, to drive them across town--all to acknowledge and console another's hurting heart.
Similarly, this past week, with our world news seemingly fuller than usual with stories of trauma and terror, it is a show of compassion, and not one of grief or gore, to which my mind keeps returning. Soon after the Boston Marathon bombings last Monday, Boston.com created Google Documents to help locals who could offer housing reach those who had been displaced by the attacks. In just a couple of days, almost 6,000 people posted to the spreadsheet offering everything from guest room beds and pull-out couches to hot showers, cupcakes, and snuggles with pets. In honor of these Bostonians' kindness and goodwill, the list of housing offers has been kept online. As with Papa's death and the front porch pies in 2001, it is this story this past week that has made me cry more than any other. If you need to be reassured of human beings' capacity for compassion and goodness, this simple spreadsheet glows with both. "I just made soup. . .and have a friendly cat," one offer reads. Another: "We have lots of coffee and floor space." Yet another: "Futon, showers, and two doggies ready to comfort you." One more: "We have lots of food, beer and cookies! :)" (The smiley emoticon is the poster's, not mine, and even seeing THAT touches me. People are amazing.) "My wife might even spring for Chinese food tonight," reads another listing. Some are from local college students who live in dorm rooms but are willing to give up their beds. Some helpfully mention all foreign languages spoken in the households. Many offer transportation. At least one offers his YMCA guest-pass so someone can shower or sauna there and/or just get away for awhile. Imagine: Nearly 6,000 people reached out to help like this. Constantly refreshing both Boston.com and the Boston Globe's Twitter feed last Monday, I read some of these housing entries aloud to Mike as they began pouring in and exclaimed to him, "Honestly, can you even imagine!? In a major city--And these people don't even KNOW who-all is reading this--And they're posting their phone numbers and email addresses and everything?!" I was astounded by it. It is one of the things I will remember most about the events of last week, all that kindness. It is only now, eight days after the attacks, that I can even think about the housing offers list, let alone skim through it, without beginning to choke-up again. ". . .Pullout couch. Excellent brownies." Well, honestly.
I believe that good outweighs evil. I believe that most people are good and are actively trying every day to be good. I believe, like Mr. Rogers believed, that "you will always find people who are helping." Here we all are, stumbling around the planet together, sometimes the ones falling and being helped up and dusted off, and other times the ones with hands outstretched to lift or carry. We share our stories, we sing songs, and we try to make both sense and something good--there's that word again--come from it all. We offer what we can, and if we pay attention, we see how the love we pass back and forth saves the day every day, one pie on a porch-front and sofa-bed-offer at a time. ♥