Dear Boston, Dear World

Boston. Oh, Boston.

 

I’m working my every-other-Monday split shift, 10-3 at my desk and a 6-9 pm shift on the reference desk. The news of the Boston bombing breaks just as I am on my way out of the building to get dinner. I spend my dinnertime – usually a relaxing couple hours of reading, journaling, enjoying a rare leisurely meal – scrolling through tweets on my phone, trying to sort out the credible from the sensationalistic and the rumormongering and the well-meaning-but-misinformed, trying to share what information might be useful to my friends and my friends’ friends, calling on Boston friends to check in, please. (They do, and they are all fine.) Because this is what we do. We connect. We crave that.

I text a friend. I mean to type “human beings” but it comes out “human wings.” We are hurtling through air, we are moving so fast we can’t stop, we are much too far from the loam and gravel of the earth – or so it seems sometimes.

Later, I am at the reference desk. I am surrounded by windows, and on the other side of those windows are trees breaking into bright green leaf, sunlight filtering through the awakening branches. Beauty, beauty. In between questions I continue to poke at Twitter and other sources of information both good and bad. I read that one of the people killed in the bombing was an 8-year-old child. I don’t know whether this is true or not (I find out later that it is), but after that I find it difficult to smile.

Here in Indiana, we are many hundreds of miles away from the horror. We are living our lives. I remind myself of this, remind myself that all we can do is keep on living. I think about a presentation I attended at a conference a few days ago, which described a study of “librarian approachability”; one of the conclusions was that librarians at the reference desk are more approachable, easier to ask for help from, if they smile at patrons. I remind myself to smile. There is nothing I can do from here, really, but to try to do my job. To help people find the information that they need. To help them feel welcome here. To share a moment of kindness. I try to meet their eyes as they walk past the reference desk, a little more than I usually do. I try to smile at them, and some of them smile back. That’s all I can do tonight: just try to share a little kindness, try to make some human wings feel welcome on this hard planet of ours.

 

 

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you’ve got about a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — “God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

   — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

3 Comments

Filed under librarianship, ramblings

3 responses to “Dear Boston, Dear World

  1. You couldn’t have said it more beautifully.

  2. I was in Boston last month for the AWP conference. The Hynes Convention Center, where most of the conference events took place, is very near (something like a couple of blocks) where the two bombs went off. One side of the convention center building is on Boylston Street. The convention center was one of the buildings evacuated after the bombs went off. That close.

    Terrible, yes, sad beyond words, as all of these terrible things are in this hard world. And at the same time — in some respects, what i find the most disturbing, a week later, is how quickly and readily the people of Boston and the nearby communities were willing to just shut down and stay off the streets — in effect, willingly cooperate with martial law — when the police and government told people to stay inside, all but imposing a curfew.

    I don’t want to try to second-guess what was going on in the mind of every person in the city, and I understand the power and reality of shock and fear. Still I think at some point, and soon, we need to say something out loud about this, and to start thinking out loud together about what the best response might be when and if the government at some point attempts to impose such a shutdown again, whatever the reasons might be.

    Not searching for magic answers right here, just saying this. Thanks very much for what you’ve posted here, Anne.

    Hope you’re well.

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