My birthday was back in February, but one present I received from my wife was a ticket for a “Duck Boat Tour,” of Boston, and, as there were no tours in February, we went on the tour last Saturday.  I say “we,” because, by the time my wife was done, she had all five of our children, her brother, our daughter–in-law and future son-in-law, and our three grandchildren in the same boat.

I was a bit nervous about unleashing such a bunch of bumpkins onto a hapless city, but we had a blast. (The only time we came close to being a dysfunctional family was by attempting to all arrive at the same place on time, and we managed that with a full thirty seconds to spare.)

Due to the delayed spring the magnolia were just bursting into bloom, and despite the cool day many Bostonians had been winter-toughened and were wearing shirt-sleeves and the dreamy look that goes along with spring enchantment.

Our duck-boat was “Red Sox Nathan,” and the captain, (you must have a captain’s license to transport that many people over water,) was a merry mother of five who had dressed in a clown-like outfit and who could have easily charmed the audience of a comedy club. She poked fun at all segments of the population we passed, as well as us, and was wonderfully irreverent about Boston’s history, keeping the thirty or so aboard her craft laughing throughout the entire trip.

I got to skipper the duck boat under the Longfellow Bridge, and my grandson got to steer in the Charles River Basin.  Besides her ordinary commentary our guide occasionally simply spoke of what struck her as something new and interesting, such as a tree that had just bloomed, or the fact the frog pond in the Boston Common had just been filled with water.  However what struck me most was the fact she did not refer to Boston as her “city,” but rather as her “town.”

I really liked that feeling, especially as I have a rural dislike of a faceless city.  However the city wore a friendly face, as we continued on to eat a hearty Italian meal at a family restaurant in the North End, and then simply wandered the streets, stopping to watch the street performers juggle knives, ride unicycles, and do amazing break-dancing.

I was a bit nervous about my youngest grandchild, who is only four and bursts with energy that causes him to dash off at odd moments, but with so many adults watching him he was kept safe. However, as I turned from my youngest, I was staggered to see my oldest grandchild, aged eleven, out with the performing break-dancers.  As they were very black and he is about as blond as a boy can be, they had dubbed him “white chocolate.”  Besides their amazingly athletic dances, which involved flips and one-arm-handstands, (and which made my grand daughter, who is a gymnast and can amaze me with her own flips, stand with her jaw dropped,) they kept up a wonderfully politically incorrect banter.  For example they called four women from the crowd to do a stunt, told the women to put their purses to the side, and then pretended to run off with the purses.  As they returned they laughed, “We don’t do that any more,” but then admonished the women, “Don’t ever, ever hand a black guy your purse.”

It was a day of beauty, cheerfulness, and warm feelings, and makes what happened only 48 hours later, on the very streets we walked across, hit home with a particular pang.

When we heard the news we felt frightened.  We were watching the grandchildren as our oldest son and his wife went to watch the marathon, and our youngest son goes to college not many blocks away.  They escaped unscathed, however, with cell phone service overwhelmed by several million calls in a matter of minutes,I had to endure one of those times when you stand under a blue sky and just don’t know.  You hope for the best, but a part of your heart is steeling itself, preparing to be man if you learn the worst.

Now it continues.  We have little children at our Daycare, and despite all attempts to protect them from senseless news of human senselessness; they have big ears, and ask the most difficult question, “Why?”

The answers can get long and become political, but small children don’t need that.  I liked my wife’s reply,  “Some people are hurt and don’t know what to do to stop hurting.  They hurt others because they are confused.  We should feel sorry for them, and teach them to be nice.”

I liked the simplicity of her answer, although of course I have studied enough history to know how difficult such “teaching” can be, and how often such “teaching” has involved the death penalty, either individually or through wars. (Nor is it always the guilty who pays with the death penalty, as Easter reminds us.)

I liked the simplicity of her answer because, in Truth, the answer is simple.

Often, when dealing with small children, you will see one little child who simply gets mad that another child is happy.  Call it what you will, jealousy or envy or whatever, you will see one small person observing another happily building a sandcastle, and a strange, mean expression fills their face, and they abruptly step forward and kick the castle, or snatch away the shovel the other child is using, or in some other childish way disturb the happy child’s contentment.  Then there is wailing and conflict, and you have to step in, and get to hear all the amazing justifications which even a child only aged three can come up with, for causing another pain.

The simple answer is that we should not want to cause other’s pain.

Not that I myself don’t fall prey to proof I’m human.  Within me is a part not much more mature than a three-year-old,  as unspiritual as a terrorist. However I recognize it is ugly, and as soon as I see its head poke up I ask God for forgiveness and help.

There are times you need to inflict pain on another, for example to remove a splinter, but in such cases it is to avoid a greater pain.  Furthermore, it is not to avoid pain in yourself, but rather to avoid a greater pain for others. (Personally, I don’t get much pleasure from removing splinters, and would be far happier if children just didn’t get them in the first place.)

People know the difference between inflicting pain upon another for the good of another, and inflicting pain for purely selfish reasons. People know the difference even when they are only three, and therefore they are only fooling themselves when they do it when they are older.  They may say there is no difference, and argue long and hard and with sophist sophistication, but deep down they know the difference.  Hate feels like hate, and love feels like love, and even the most skillful confidence trickster, able to fool millions of others, can never completely fool himself.

Therefore the best answer to hate is to awaken love.  It is the candle that defies the darkness.

At this point none know whom in particular bombed Boston.  People have their pet theories, however few can deny it was a person given to hate.  They wanted to kick the sand castle, to end the happiness and bring about sorrow, perhaps thinking they could blow out a candle and bring about darkness.  However even in sorrow the candle continues to glow.

The best response to the murder of an eight year old child is to love children all the more fiercely and deeply.  Rather than cowering, people need to step forward all the more bravely.

For the answer to terrorism, (the answer terrorists most loathe and fear,) is to cause them to see they failed to bring darkness, and instead made light brighter.  The answer to hate is love.

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