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As a mathematician and policy analyst by education I oftentimes think about, measure, and write about social issues and events that are personal. As a graduate student and professor, I evaluated the effectiveness of some public policies which were the end-result of our country’s or community’s personalizing often horrific and heinous crimes. My analyses of these policies never measured how individuals perceived the legislation, or engaging in the legislative process, as helping them cope with or attempt to manage a tragedy that was (or they connected as) personal to them.

It is this, “what’s missing” from these analyses – the best wishes and concern for victims, families, citizen and first responders and their perception of the legislative response, which I think about today in light of the bombings at yesterday’s Boston Marathon; a couple of colleagues, one based in Boston, shared via email earlier today:

One of the things I look for when there are tragedies, like what happened in Boston, or for that matter any “dark” situation or moment, is the light. Mister Roger’s, the children’s TV host used to say that whenever he saw anything on TV that was scary when he was a child his mom used to comfort him by coaching him to “look for the helpers”.  On Facebook and on a few blogs I picked up on this theme. When watching the endless replay of the events on the news I too noticed the “helpers”… Look at the videos, think about it. How many did you see running towards the carnage? I saw first responders, Physicians, Nurses, Soldiers, random people.  That’s what Love does.

… what occurred yesterday was beyond belief… it’s the helpers that will be remembered… What matters is what we chose to do moving forward and how we can let the light, positive energy and healing take over the negativity of the situation. I am off to speak to a group of emerging nursing leaders today, many of whom work in the hospitals that are caring for the victims. It is a somber day, yet one of hope as we in healthcare know we are healers of the heart and soul, as well as the body.

As teachers and leaders in education, healthcare (or any field) such tragedies remind us that it is how we move to educate better, or act better, or engage better, or demonstrate our interest, care, or concern better – all in an effort to make a positive difference – that often becomes meaningful. Today with a heavy heart I celebrate the heroes in Boston. They remind us that even in the darkest of times we must seize the opportunity to have purpose, do worthwhile actions, and make a difference. Fortunately, there are opportunities for educators to have purpose, do worthwhile work, and make a difference every day in the lives of their students and parents. I am grateful to engage in professional work with teachers and witness the difference they make in students’ lives; they, too, are heroes… daily.

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