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Remembering 9/11 with Acts of Loving Kindness

This morning my husband took a bike ride along the Fox River, pulling our youngest son in the bike trailer. They ride this route often and nearly every time my husband returns dumbfounded by the number of rude people —walkers, runners, other bike riders —he encounters along the way.

“I smile and say good morning,” he says. “And they look at me like I’ve insulted them.”

I know, of course, these encounters can’t be personal. These people don’t even know my husband. They are probably deep in thought, hot and tired, or just having a bad day.

But this is how many of us—myself included—go about our days: lost in our own small worlds, unaware of others and oblivious of the impact our expressions, attitudes and words might have on another human being.

Like most Americans who watched the horrific events of September 11 unfold, I had a difficult time grasping the magnitude of the crime or the scars it left behind. As I sat glued to the TV and flipped through waiting room magazines, what I could grasp was the unprecedented outpouring of kindness among strangers. And it regularly brought me to tears.

In the midst of every tragedy, it seems, stories of caring and selfless giving rise to the surface. And 9/11 was no exception. Strangers searching for strangers, firefighters sacrificing their lives to save others, funds established for victims’ families, people who had never met comforting each other in their grief.

Even thousands of miles away, in the aftermath of that evil, people were nicer to each other. It was as if we were jolted out of our small little worlds so we could see each other more clearly, as we truly are—precious lives that so easily and unexpectedly could be snuffed out.

Ten years later, memories of that unthinkable crime linger and too many carry the scars. But who still claims to live every day with the selflessly giving, life-is-too-precious-to-be-ignored attitude that dominated the months that followed? Not the people on our bike path. Not me.

On September 11, 2001, a group of men carried out acts that were meant for evil. On September 11, 2011, we can’t change anything that happened or get back what was destroyed. But we can take an evil event and make it holy. We can commemorate horrendous acts with acts of loving kindness. We can slow down and pay attention to each other. We can listen and hug someone. We can help a stranger. We can simply smile and say “good morning.”

Then maybe we’ll discover that the power to destroy is not the greatest power afterall.

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