In the song “Good People,” Jack Johnson asks, “Where’d all the good people go? / I’ve been changing channels I don’t seem them on the TV shows.”
After a fortnight that has seen both tragic catastrophe for Boston and minor inconvenience for me, I can tell you that I know exactly where the good people are. They’re all around us.
Last Monday, I was eating dinner at home when a friend gchatted me and asked if I had seen the news. I quickly plugged into all of the media outlets I could get my hands on and learned that there had been two explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Luckily, I confirmed pretty quickly that all of my friends and family were safe. But as the events of the week unfolded, and images of bloodied victims at the scene, a shut down Copley Square, and army tanks rolling through deserted Watertown streets dominated my computer screen, I felt a strong pull toward the other side of the Atlantic. My city was calling my name, and it felt stranger and stranger to be so far away. I know now that my homecoming in late June, which was already slated to be emotional, will send an extra shiver down my spine. I also know exactly where I will celebrate July 4: watching the fireworks and listening to the Pops alongside the Charles, enjoying my beautiful city with my friends and fellow Americans.
The tragedy was all over the news here in Madrid as well, and the kindness I received from concerned friends, colleagues and students about my loved ones back home helped ease the pain a bit. Of course their kind words were nothing compared to the outpouring of heroism seen in Boston. Runners finished the race and continued on to local hospitals to give blood. Emergency officials and regular people ran straight to victims’ aid with no concern for their personal safety. Later, the Chicago Tribune sent pizza to the Globe to help energize tired journalists, and the Yankees and other teams around the league played Sweet Caroline as a tribute to the Sox and Boston. David Ortiz swore on national television, and the director of the FCC chose not to fine him because of the emotional support his words gave the city. There are billions of people in the world. Some of them are evil. But most of them are far from it.
While I don’t intend in any way to compare the horrific events in Boston last week to a tiny personal problem I recently dealt with (I’ve gone back and forth on whether to share them in the same blog post at all), I think that the stories show the same kind of humanity, though on incomparable scales. So I’ll continue, as long as you know that I know these two events really can’t be compared. After dropping my cell phone in the toilet and navigating Spanish customs and other bureaucracy to finally receive my brother’s old phone in the mail, I went to get the phone unlocked and was subsequently screwed over, lied to and laughed at by the employees at the store. Amid a nine-day annoyance of red tape, rudeness, and thus, phonelessness, I was blessed with offers from friends to give the jerks a piece of their minds, as well as above-and-beyond kindness from the man at my phone company’s store, who bent the rules, gave me a discount, and offered not-in-the-job-description help in dealing with the phone unlocking guys.
And when doubt still remains about the goodness in the world, we can always look to children to find innocence, big ideas and even bigger smiles. In honor of El Día del Libro (Book Day, which celebrates literature on the anniversary of Shakespeare’s and Cervantes’ death) on April 23rd, two of my seventh grade classes cowrote a story with fifth graders at my mom’s school in Massachusetts. As paragraphs, illustrations and voice recordings were sent back and forth across the pond, we ended up with a hilarious and adorable story about multicultural Mr. Potato Heads. My colleague Elena compiled it all into a beautiful online format, which can be seen here.