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Solidarity is all around us

Observer Editorial Board | Friday, April 19, 2013

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Americans have turned to each other for support. Across the country, citizens stand in solidarity with the City of Boston.
In the social media realm, many people have quoted the famous children’s television host Mr. Rogers as they have tried to come to terms with the tragedy. He once said, “I would see scary things in the news. My mother would say ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'” And so, over the past few days, individuals have turned away from news stations that seem to endlessly replay footage of the bombing and toward stories of people helping in the aftermath of the incident.
Reports profiled individuals who ran toward the site of the explosion – rather than away from it – to try to help those who were injured in the attack. Various publications wrote about the marathoners who continued to run after crossing the finish line to give blood at local hospitals. These people turned out in such force that hospitals later turned away donors because they did not need them.
Newspapers told the story of Carlos Arredondo, a father who had lost one son in Iraq and another to depression. On the day of the marathon, Arredondo risked his life to save other parents’ sons. Victims have asked their saviors to step forward so that they could thank them – individuals they knew only as “Sgt. Tyler” or the guy who gave the shirt off his back to save them. Across the country, citizens showed Boston their support through prayer, donations, memorial events and even newspaper graphics.
After the bombings, Boston has seen our nation come together as a whole in support of a part hurt by grievous violence – a larger community working together to restore faith in humanity.
These acts of kindness and solidarity raise an important question: Why does it take a tragedy of this scale to highlight our ability to work together?

Even on an ordinary day, these helpers are working to improve their communities, if only we open our eyes to their work. In fact, we can look within our own Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s communities to see these helpers and the ways they stand in solidarity with those who need support.

For example, let’s consider the many events that have taken place right here in the past week:

Last Friday, students walked in solidarity with those battling cancer at Notre Dame’s annual Relay for Life. Whether they attended the event, donated money or bought a Relay paper foot in LaFortune, members of our community helped support people fighting a devastating disease.
That support for those struggling with cancer continued into this week. Over the past three days, members of our community have raised money for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Memorial Hospital of South Bend and Pantene Beautiful Lengths through The Bald and The Beautiful. Many people shaved their heads to express solidarity with patients undergoing cancer treatment. Others donated hair and bought hair extensions representing different types of cancer.
This week, the Core Council for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Questioning Students is hosting StaND Against Hate Week, a series of events intended to foster a positive and inclusive atmosphere on campus – solidarity within our corner of the broader human community.
Today, University President Fr. John Jenkins invites the Notre Dame community to a prayer service for just and effective immigration reform. These issues go beyond the abstract political realm; they’re about standing in solidarity with real people and the overwhelming challenges they face every day.
With all of that said, our communities can and must do more. Those who aided the victims of Monday’s bombings show us what it looks like to support others when lives are devastated and tragedy is certain. These people show us how the human spirit can and will overcome devastation because we care for each other, for no other reason than we are all human.
At Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, we must appreciate the strength of our community. The solidarity and support so many of us show for each other should be celebrated. They demonstrate the respect we have for one another as parts of a larger whole.
Still, although many find a home during their four years here, the community has not managed to welcome everyone. We need to do more, to embrace the true meaning of these charitable events on our campuses and the opportunities they offer us to emulate the Boston heroes, albeit in small ways.
But, perhaps more importantly, we need to live out this message in our daily lives, to realize it doesn’t matter what we are – it matters who we are. We may disagree about many things, but we are all human. Acknowledging each other’s basic humanity, our common thread, requires that we show one another respect and love. We must demand of ourselves nothing less.