The Boston Bombing Survivor, Central Park Jogger and Me
What can be learned from the compassion people have after surviving a physical tragedy?
Giving the commencement speech at Framingham State University, Amputee Boston Bombing survivor Heather Abbot pointed out the important role attitude plays in determining how well you come through your challenges. A positive attitude has a powerful impact on possessing the mentality and motivation necessary to recover.
Before considering Abbot’s insights, let’s examine another nationally publicized event that occurred in 1989 and involved a 28 year old jogger who was brutally attacked and left for dead. The Central Park jogger, in an interview with Oprah, attributed her healing to being concerned for the teenagers who victimized her.
Oprah: How did you feel about the people who turned this into a major racial confrontation?
Central Park Jogger: I focused all my attention on my healing.
Oprah: Glory hallelujah for you! Oprah exclaims before asking, Does it bother you to be referred to as the Central Park jogger?
Central Park Jogger: I’m more than the Central Park jogger—that’s just a name. But I understand that’s how people know me, and that’s okay with me.
Oprah: Why have you decided to come forward and tell your story now?
Central Park Jogger: For a long time I’ve been thinking about how I can use my recovery to help others.
A sudden violent change can leave us shocked, disoriented and too grief stricken to function. How can one generate an attitude that will help you get through a tough time, let go of resentments and want to help others? Luckily there are survivors among us who have developed a way to cope with the loss and who are qualified to lead the way. According to an article in the Massachusetts Metro West Daily News, Boston bombing survivor Abbot divides her coping attitude into 3 strategies:
- Accept it and move on,
- Get off the island
- Share the spirit.
Having made use of three similar strategies, I believe I totally get what she is saying. To me, it seems that understanding her strategies is to understand my strategies and vice versa. Having only the article written by a Metro West Daily staff reporter, who didn’t elaborate on the listed steps, I will share my three steps and point out how her three steps are saying similar things as the steps I created.
My 3 Steps for Recovery
Before sharing my thoughts on the three different strategies or steps making up the core of Abbot’s and my recovery experiences, I want to re-acknowledge The Central Park Jogger. Besides not harboring ill will toward her attackers, she shares how accepting her situation was central to getting through her circumstance and rebuilding her life.
Accepting is always a necessary first step. The easiest way to grasp my ABCs of recovery is by knowing that I see life like we are all born with a book of blank pages. It’s not up to us if our book is a gold embossed, leather bound hardback, or a cheaply glued paperback. But what is up to us is what the pages say.
OK, with that book metaphor in mind, here are my ABCs:
- Accept the book you’ve been given,
- Believe you can write a happy ending.
- Care about others.
To me, Abbot’s “Accept it and move on” strategy means don’t wallow in self pity. This means to keep living life! In the same way, my “Accept the book you have been given” doesn’t mean to accept less than the best you are able to achieve. Accepting your book means accepting that the original way you meant to build the kind of life you want may have to change but your desire to live a happy and fulfilled life does not have to change.
Accepting the book I’d been given set me free to develop the things I could still do, I began to Believe I could write a happy ending to the book I’ve been given. Believing I could write a happy ending to the book I’ve been given set me free to get off the island of isolation where negative thinking had banished me.
“Caring about others” or “Sharing the spirit,” as Abbot says, is the biggest and the most healing step I ever took toward living a rebuilt life. Developing the ability to care about others by sharing a positive spirit is the most important ingredient in living a fulfilling life.