The Common Good

Talking to My Son About Boston

I woke up this morning, like everyone else, to the news of a shootout with one suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing and the ongoing manhunt for a second brother. Like many others, I’ve heard lots of misinformation over the past few days about whether officials did or didn’t have a suspect, whether they did or didn’t have them in custody, and so on.

8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the Boston bombing. Via Facebook
8-year-old Martin Richard, who was killed in the Boston bombing. Via Facebook

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“I heard someone dropped a bomb on Boston,” said Mattias, my 9-year-old son, over breakfast while I scrolled through the breaking news reports.

“Not exactly,” I said. “It was two guys. Two brothers who came from [another country] to go to college at MIT.” They put homemade bombs in and around trashcans by the finish line of the marathon.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I really don’t know.”

“Maybe they were angry about something, and they didn’t know how to talk about their feelings.”

“Maybe so,” I nodded.

“Did they hurt people?”

“A lot of people,” I said. “More than a hundred.”

“And they didn’t do anything to deserve that.”

“No,” I said, “they didn’t.”

“Did they kill anyone?”

“Three people,” I said, hoping his questions would stop, while also knowing well enough they wouldn’t.

“Who died, dad?”

“Well,” I sighed, “a young woman who also was a student, and a boy…” I watched his face fall and his mouth go slack. We sat in silence for at least a minute, though it felt like hours.

“That’s really terrible,” he whispered. I nodded in silence. “That kid didn’t do anything.”

“It’s pretty messed up,” I said. Then his face began to harden.

“If I saw those guys,” he raised his voice, “I would take a cinder block and …” his voice trailed off as he realized the hopelessness of trying to make anything right out of such chaos, such senseless violence.

“I know, buddy. It’s hard to understand. And it’s okay to have feelings about it.”

“I hope they feel really bad about what they did,” he scowled. Amy helped slip his backpack over his shoulders as we scooted him toward the front door. He was late for school. “Oh, and don’t forget to bring cupcakes by the school today for the carnival,” he said. “Store-bought only.”

“All right buddy. Try to hustle so you won’t get a tardy slip.”

Store-bought cupcakes. Because God knows what someone might do to homemade treats for elementary school kids.

God knows what someone might do.

Christian Piatt is an author, editor, speaker, musician and spoken word artist. He co-founded Milagro Christian Church in Pueblo, Colorado with his wife, Rev. Amy Piatt, in 2004. Christian is the creator and editor of "Banned Questions About The Bible" and "Banned Questions About Jesus." His new memoir on faith, family and parenting is called "PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date."

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