In the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon, heroes abound. While major media outlets discussed police and EMTs that converged on the scene of Monday’s tragedy, it became clear to me that friends, colleagues, and students serving as athletic trainers at the event were on the front lines at the finish line. Trained and prepared to serve the injuries and illness of sport, they found themselves in the midst trauma more fitting the fog of war.
Unexpected service and selfless compassion was the theme of the day and will likely be the theme of weeks to come. Personal gifts will be called into service and the ties that bind will bring comfort.
Over the upcoming days, weeks, months, and even years those around us will need help. It won’t look like the heroic efforts required in the moment on Boylston Street, but will be important nonetheless. Some of this help will be tangible in the form of money and physical assistance. More often it will be social and emotional. Trauma influences each and every one of us differently. We will grieve in our own ways and in our own times. We are resilient and will overcome. Throughout this journey a patient ear, a loving spirit, and ongoing patience is support that we can all give. We all have different skills and aptitudes, but our social-emotional connectedness is universal. We are all helpers.
Over the upcoming days, weeks, months, and, maybe even, years each of us may need to be helped. Adrenaline wears off and reality will set in. An important question that must always be asked in these times of tragedy is, “Who will help the helpers?” In the past 24 hours I have yet to stumble upon someone that does not have some sort of genuine connection to yesterday’s events. It would be reckless to suggest that psychological trauma will abound. This is simply not the case. We are amazingly resilient people. Nonetheless at times we may all find ourselves snapping at others, distracted at work, or in need of specialized assistance. We are all helpees.
This is both a selfless and selfish time. Be a kind ear and a warm embrace to those healing and rebuilding. Also, find personal strength from your friends and family and make steps to find control in times when things may feel out of control. You may not have the skills of an ER doctor or the presence of law enforcement, but you are a helper. Conversely, regardless of how strong you are it is o.k. to be a helpee.
This city will keep on running. It runs bravely and proudly as a connected and caring community.
Dr. Adam Naylor leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Boston University’s School of Education. He has a decade and a half of experiences working with professional through amateur athletes – of note: US Open competitors, NCAA champions, Olympians, Stanley Cup winners, and UFC martial artists. Beyond sports, over the past five years he has served as a corporate performance and wellness consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ahnaylor.