Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Gift

As we put 2013 in our rearview mirror, there are a lot of things we could discuss here. There was good and there was bad, just like every year. But there is one story that will forever color my memories of 2013, and today, I want to talk about it.

For me, Monday, April 15th was just a day off. I got some DVDs in the mail that I had been wanting for some time, and planned to spend the day watching them. I was only vaguely aware that the Boston Marathon was even taking place. But that all changed most horribly that afternoon.

For my own reasons discussed previously, this really hit home for me. And then, a couple of nights later, I accidentally stumbled across the Twitter account of one of the survivors. I sent her a message of support, but didn't stop there. I kept reading and learning about who she was. As I did, she became real to me.

You see, the thing about "big" stories is they happen to someone else. There's a disconnect because, well, you don't know them. But reading that Twitter, and seeing a small part of the bigger story of her life, it flipped a switch in my brain that turned off that disconnect. I decided that I couldn't help everyone, but maybe, just maybe, I could help her.

That survivor was Sydney Corcoran, as you have probably guessed. We've gone from being random strangers to friends in that time. Along the way, I have made other friends because of Sydney: Alexis, Katie, Tyler, Alyssa, Michelle, Kassandra, Sarah, Thais and Rin (and apologies to anyone I inadvertently left out). There have also been friends I only know through online aliases: Cellmate, Splendid, Silver, Hedge, Ladybug and probably dozens of others. It has been heartwarming to get to know and come to care about people that were not even on my radar a year ago.

But with this all comes a degree of guilt, because of why. It's all the result of a tragedy and a crime, and that sometimes gives me pause. As much as all these people mean to me now, I would gladly give it all back if it meant that the bombing never happened. Life doesn't work that way, but it's something that weighs on my mind from time to time.

I have felt like darkness has nearly consumed my soul on more than one occasion the last couple of years. I am down, though not as badly as I have been in the past. I am not sure which way is up and which way is straight to the bottom. Mostly, I have been muddling through as best I can and trying to survive.

The thing is, Sydney has given me a reason to smile that I wasn't sure I still had. I have exulted in her triumphs. I have offered a virtual hand through the setbacks. Mostly, I have just tried to be there for her. And I can't very well do that if I'm busy feeling sorry for myself, can I?

Sydney and her mother Celeste, and indeed, her entire family, have gone through so much in 2013. They have let me, a person they've never even met, tag along in a small way. It is an honor that I find humbling to this day, and I don't take the trust they've placed in me lightly.

All of this was born out of tragedy. If I'm being honest, I've crossed paths with some horrible people during this year - folks that either lack empathy or are disturbed in ways I'd rather not contemplate. But they are in the distinct minority. I have encountered far more decent, kind, and just all-around AWESOME people through this whole experience. And I can honestly say they have changed my life.

I have seen the worst of human behavior this year. I have also seen the best, and it was far more impressive than the worst could ever be. I have seen compassion, and shown compassion. I have seen the triumph of the human spirit against incredible odds and heartache. Where there were once strangers, there are now friends. And an anonymous person in a photograph became like a sister to me.

"The Gift" of 2013 was not the horrible nightmare of the Boston Marathon Bombing, but rather, the response to it from all over. It reaffirmed my faith in the basic goodness of most people. And, perhaps, it taught me a lot about myself, and reminded me of some things I was in danger of forgetting.

And Sydney? Well, the road for the Corcoran family is still a long one, but they have come so far already. This Boston Globe story (complete with video and photo gallery) may just bring a tear to your eye. I know it did for me.

Thank you, Sydney, for...everything. I hope my being a part of your life has helped you as much as you being a part of mine has helped me. You were already remarkable, but now I have no doubt you are going to have an impact on this crazy world of ours. You're clearly here for a reason, and I'm excited to see THAT story play out, too. You'll always be my gurl.

Sometimes, it feels impossible to make a difference. I was just a dude on Twitter with a blog. But in the end, that was enough. I made a difference. Now, to make a bigger difference in 2014.

I'm out. Thank you and good night.

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