In the Wake of Boston: One Child’s Question

“Mumma, you’re never gonna die, right?”

Yesterday was the day after here in Boston. I heard someone on NPR describe it as a city-wide feeling of melancholy. To me, it feels like a pervasive quiet permeating the city – a quiet laced with an odd mix of determination, defiance and community layered atop deep, deep sadness. We are a city united not only by mourning, but also by our resolution to persevere against the evil that confronts us. And our country cries and fights with us.

“Mumma, you’re never gonna die, right?”

Monday, I did what almost everyone I know did. I left work early to find my loved ones. I picked K up from school, and I gave her a hug. I tried to pretend that disaster hadn’t just ripped through my adopted hometown. We played games. We role-played (I was K, and she was “mommy”). And we pretended to be Bat Girl and Wonder Woman fighting off bad guys. Just like every other evening.

“Mumma, you’re never gonna die, right?”

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You aren’t special. Or maybe you are. But that means you aren’t.

On Facebook today, I was pointed to a great article in a local blog about a high school commencement speech from Friday, which was, in a word, fantastic. But before I get into why, let’s take a step back.

I frequently have conversations with friends where we lament the inability of “the younger generation” (shudder. I can’t believe I just said that.) to fend for themselves. The sense of entitlement seems currently to be out of all proportion with reality. Virtually an entire generation has been raised to be praised, petted and catered upon. We give awards for showing up, and tell our children that they are smart, when they’re merely being average; that all that matters is that you tried your best even though we know that the wider world cares about results than it does about effort.

Even with my own generation, I’ve often commented (before the recession) that my generation seems to think that we’re entitled to be fulfilled by our job. That we deserve to find a job that not only pays us well, but that fulfills us as people and our desire to do good in the world (two things, sadly, that are usually mutually exclusive).

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Keeping Perspective: Flight, Fright or Fight

For you news junkies out there, you may have heard about the 180-lb tumor that was removed from a 32-year-old Vietnamese man, Nguyen Duy Hai, in Ho Chi Minh City. If you saw it, you probably had an “oh my god,” “gross,” “wow that’s incredible” or a “can you imagine?” moment. I’ve had those moments too. I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve also had the “I’m so glad it isn’t me” reaction. I think all these reactions are perfectly normal. It’s one way that we remind ourselves that despite all our complaints, there are still many, many people who have it worse than we do in some way, shape or form.

But for me, this story was an unpleasant reminder of what could happen to my little girl. Just six short weeks ago, I talked about the struggle for calm in the face of my daughter’s neurofibromatosis (NF type 1). Because it turns out that this Vietnamese man also has NF1.

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