This morning the events of the Boston Marathon bombing are unfolding in a scary and insane way. I have friends in Boston and the whole city is on lockdown. All transportation is stopped. The video of the streets is dead silence, police cars driving down the middle of the street. No citizens outside at all. The citizens have been told to stay inside in locked homes while the police search for the second suspect and accomplices. It must be terrifying there.

And a sort of sketchy and unfinished picture of the brothers who are named as the suspects is unfolding as well. 

I have tried my best to reserve judgement until I see what is really happening and what the whole story is.

However, in the midst of all of that I have seen some information about these two brothers that is tearing at my heart. 

I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t feel like what the bombers did was horrible. Or that I don’t feel just completely torn up for the families and survivors and injured and those who saw the wreckage and carnage. I don’t want anyone to think that I don’t think about those who ran into the blast to help people who had lost limbs or couldn’t get up or needed help. I want you all to know that I do – those are the people I feel so badly for. The heroes, the injured, the dead, the families. People trying to piece back together their lives. People afraid of ringing telephones and slamming doors now. People who can’t leave their homes because of fear. Those are the people I have been focused on all week – holding space for them in my heart. Reminding myself that love wins and to look for the good and to find the heroes. 

But this morning I saw pictures of the two brothers. Good pictures, no the grainy security camera pictures. I saw a lot of pictures of the brother who was a boxer and a few of the brother who was in school. Real pictures of them doing what they loved and laughing. Pictures with loved ones. Pictures of them goofing off with their buddies. When I saw those, and heard statements from the father and saw an interview with the uncle, it hit me. Those two boys are people too. Those two boys (however astray they had wandered from the rest of society) were people, with families and friends. 

I saw pictures that reminded me of my husband’s family. They have the same coloring and a similar kind of “look” as some of my husband’s family and friends who are Armenian. I probably wouldn’t mistake them for Armenian, but they reminded me of the people we love. The dark thick curly hair, the olive skin, the dark eyes, the bigger noses. And that hit me too. These half grins, these happy moments, these proud boys who came to America for a better life and found hardship and anger. They also touched my heart. 

And it hit me as well, somewhere there is a mother or grandmother, an aunt or cousin, a father or uncle, a grandfather. Somewhere there is another family that is torn apart by this. A family watching their son be hunted down on live TV. A family that already knows they have to bury the other son. A family across the ocean in pain. A family that doesn’t speak my language and that looks differently than I do and that may have very different beliefs. But they are a family – people who are grieving too. 

This is where the compassion comes in. 

I began to think about these boys. I didn’t really set out to do it, but I did begin to think about their lives.

I wonder what those boys have gone through? I wonder what made them so angry as to want to hurt other people. I never really do understand those sorts of things. Why one person wants to harm other people they have never even met. I suppose I never will understand it. But what kind of anger does that take? What kind of hatred? I know that growing up in Chechnya or even Kazakhstan could not have been easy. Certainly nothing like my life. My husband grew up in a war torn country as a young child, and moved to a country that is mostly ruled by tyranny. His life was not like mine. His family had real concerns. Concerns about having enough food, about daily safety, about having a roof over their children’s heads. My husband saw friends injured by unspent rounds in the street and learned to sleep through bombings. My husband’s friend told me there were times that there was no food and they snuck into the government orchards to steel fruit. I know that Chechnya has a very turbulent history (even recent). It is a painful place to live for many people. I know that Kazakhstan is a place of economic struggle and not enough to go around. I know that these boy’s lives must not have been easy and that is why they came here. 

It is being said that they never adapted well to the new environment here. I have seen the immigrants I know treated poorly and I can only imagine that these boys also had a hard time with that. They were probably treated like second class citizens and possibly even bullied in their younger years. 

I always tend to think about the why of these types of crimes. Why would a young person want to shoot up a theater or school? Why would a young man want to bomb a federal building? Why would two smiling brothers want to harm innocent people they have never met? The only answers I find are always that they must have pain I can’t understand. And that they haven’t been given the ability to deal properly with that pain. 

I know what they did was wrong. And I know that the harm they inflicted and the fear that people have had to endure because of them is horrible. I am not discounting that. 

But somehow, I find compassion for them too. I find myself wanting to hug those younger, smiling boys in the pictures with family and friends. I find myself wanting to change their course back when the pain was mounting and they found no help or relief. I want to stop whatever voices (internal and external) put these ideas in their thoughts. I want to tell them that we are all a part of the same family – we are all people.

I want to remind myself that they are people. With loved ones. At one point they were just like you and me. 

I will reserve my final judgement of their actions until I find out more of the story. But today, my heart is heavy. My soul hurts for all of those involved. I am hurting with all of those that are hurting. 


“Pain shared, my brother, is pain not doubled but halved. No man is an island”

-Neil Gaiman



One thought on “Compassion

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