Originally posted on the OC Register.
Resilience and the Beauty of the Human Spirit
The day after the bombings at the Boston Marathon, Muslim faith leader Jamaal Diwan wrote this response to the tragic events:
I often find myself reflecting on how crazy life is. My primary reason for doing so these days is the expected arrival of our first child. Sometimes I sit and wonder if it is right to bring a child into the world as we know it. With all of the unjust wars, poverty, oppression, racism, hatred, terrorism, and pain – is it really okay to bring life into this world?
Then yesterday I opened the news to find a bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. My first thoughts and prayers were with the victims and the first-responders, but as a Muslim leader, the question of who did it never lingers far behind. Shortly thereafter we prayed the midday prayer and I asked the congregation to pray for the victims. People began to ask if there was any information about who did it, and several prayed out loud, “Oh God, please let it not be a Muslim.”
I thought about my friend and mentor, Imam Suhaib Webb of the Islamic Society of Boston Community Center. I thought about all the outreach work he, his colleagues, and congregants have done to strengthen relationships in his community. This outreach includes everything from interfaith meetings and events, to lectures at local universities and schools, and constant engagement with the community on city-related and other issues.
These efforts help overcome hatred and misunderstanding, and have resulted in strong ties with the interfaith community and with the people of Boston.
I thought about my own outreach and education efforts, about the hours of conversations and discussions, phone calls, meetings, lunches, and dinners with faith leaders, media, high schools, law enforcement officials, and city representatives in Irvine and around Southern California.
I thought about how in just a few moments, one person can seemingly erase the results of all that hard work.
Later that evening a congregant shared with me a story of how he used to own a store in Oklahoma City and after the bombing there in 1995, which was initially blamed on Muslims, a long-time customer came in and cursed him out.
It all felt so fragile.
As these thoughts were coming over me I saw an article titled “13 Examples of People Being Awesome After the Attack on the Boston Marathon.”
The article was full of examples of creative and heroic ways that people came together in the immediate aftermath of the bombing to help one another. Among other things, it profiled an impromptu list of people offering housing or rides. Runners who finished the race and continued running directly to hospitals to donate blood. Nearby restaurants feeding locals and runners and telling them to “only pay if you can.”
There was still hope. There is still hope.
Reading the article, my whole experience changed. I felt like I had been looking at a black and white image that was all of a sudden filled in with color. In the face of all odds, with pain and violence staring us straight in the eyes, we overcome. Such is the beauty of the resilience of the human spirit. We do not give in, we do not give up. We struggle and we strive and through it all we find love, happiness, fulfillment, community, friendship, mercy, and many other beautiful qualities.
So we will continue living and loving – and bringing babies into the world – because hope is stronger than despair, love is stronger than hate, and good is stronger than evil.