A Voyeur to a Moment of Real Life

I take things for granted.  I think that’s part of the Western condition.  We grow up thinking that our living conditions are unlikely to differ drastically from childhood into adulthood, and we count on that security.  We are content.  I’ve been thinking about this throughout my move in statements like “I’ll just buy it there,” and “I can always get another one.”  There are some things for which these statements hold truth, but there are others where that is not the case.

An aerial photo of the house where Tsarnaev was found.  The boat has since been removed.
An aerial photo of the house where Tsarnaev was found. The boat has since been removed.

Watertown was rocked by violence in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.  Franklin street–my street–ended up the focal point of this mayhem as SWAT teams and police honed in to capture Dzhokhar Tsarnaev hidden in a boat.  To hear my landlord tell the story is pretty amazing.  The police hid in the driveway behind his car as SWAT teams and federal forces swarmed in from all directions.  No one was sure of anything that day.  The police had closed off a 20-block perimeter to search for Tsarnaev, but the perimeter started a block over from where he was hiding.  They skipped Franklin street in all of their questioning and door-knocking.  The man who found Tsarnaev was just out having a cigarette when he noticed that the shrink wrap on his boat had been disturbed.  He then notified the authorities.

I take the way that my life functions on a daily basis for granted.  I take for granted the fact that when I see or hear of bad news on the radio or TV that I can just turn it off.  I tried to picture myself living in this house in April when all of this went down, unable to turn it off.  I don’t know that I would have come out OK.  It’s so easy to forget about this sort of thing when it’s not in my face, but when it’s there, I replay it until I can remember every thing down to the ways each time of day smelled.  I think it’s the storyteller in me that wants to hold on to those types of details.  I want to be able to relay them without any traces of trauma, but those tiny details are often triggers that inhibit my ability to process the story.

My housemates talk about the bombing like it was yesterday.  My landlord tells the story so matter-of-factly that I think it helps him in some way.  For all I know, he could just talk about it because it’s a damn good story.  Either way, he’s let me know that I’ve entered a changed community.  What used to be a quiet, neighborly, unassuming area has been infiltrated by a fear that I can’t quite understand.  Even so, it’s still the most unassuming neighborhood I’ve called home.  No one stares at unfamiliar faces.  They say “hello” and go about their business.  I haven’t felt the urge to look over my shoulder here.  I hope that continues.

I am beginning to like it quite a bit.

The view of my street when I look my driveway.
The view of my street when I look my driveway.

The Things We Need and Want

But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.– Matt. 6:33-34

I’ve spent the better part of a month rifling through my possessions, trying to figure out what I need and what I don’t in preparation for my big move to Watertown, MA.  The biggest realization that I have made so far is that there is a vast difference between need and want.  I knew this prior to now, in theory, but now it feels new as I try to fit my life into two 50lb suitcases.

I worry more about the things that I want, and whether or not I will be able to have them in the future.  This comes from not being able to have the simplest things that I’ve wanted in the past.  Having been so occupied with the things I want leaves me no room to think about the things that I actually need.  This doesn’t apply only to physical things; I’ve struggled with this as far as my emotions are concerned as well, as I think most people have.  With that, it’s time to stop worrying about tomorrow and the things that I can neither predict nor control.  I will always have things.  There are so many things in the world, and my position as a Westerner privileges my access to them (I’ll save a more in depth critique of this point for another post). Even if I get rid of all my possessions today, it’s almost certain that I will have to do it again tomorrow and in years to come.

I’m packing, but I can’t take with me the people that I care for the most.  I have to remember what they have taught me and act out the most important lessons.  I cannot physically carry love, but I can hold it in my heart and share it whenever I encounter a stranger.  I need to make space for these things because these are the things that I need.