Perspective of living — abroad and otherwise

As an American and a runner I am shocked and horrified by the bombing at the Boston Marathon. As a student living abroad, I’m even more shocked and horrified by the subsequent reactions and am struggling to find perspective. And peace.

War and war-like actions are the worst mankind has to offer this world. Violence begets violence. It always has been a self replicating and escalating cycle and it, I fear, always will be.

View from the DuomoI am by no means the most erudite student of history on the planet but I grew up in a news-aware home as the daughter of two Peace Activists. Some of my earliest memories are of holding a candle outside the White House and Pentagon. I remember vividly trying to wrap my young mind around the concept of a hunger strike. I celebrated my 8th birthday around a bonfire while participating in the Great American-Soviet Peace March in the Soviet Union in 1987.

In this light — my own perspective — I look at current events.

Perspective, let us share some

I think my hippy-peace-nick-tree-hugger cred runs pretty deep; as do my beliefs in the ideals of living in a peaceful and just society.

Again, I am saddened by the bombings and send my deepest sympathies to those affected.

Yet we have to remember that we Americans are not alone in feeling the effects of acts of violence. At the same time that the car chase and lockdown was happening in Boston, 27 people were killed by a bomb in a Iraqi coffeeshop. It a lower 3rd ID — a footnote — on the live-news action of the manhunt. And that is what really saddens me.

Flight PerspectiveWe, as US citizens, are so isolated and removed from the atrocities of violence that a bombing that kills 27 people in an area still under our “protection” (make no mistake we are still very much involved there) is a sidenote to pictures of a Boston suburb on lockdown.

This is to say nothing of the other many, many acts of violence on a big and small scale happening across the globe. It all becomes overwhelming. My only point I guess is that maybe, perhaps, the 3 days of constant news from one corner of the world should be weighed harshly agaist the reality on the rest of the planet.

So what to do?


I understand that my self-avowed non-violent ways is difficult to reconcile with what I chose to do for “fun” on weekends.

GoRuck Amsterdam

GORUCK Challenges are completely based on military training and run by former green berets. While participants come from all walks of life — one of the things that make the events great — most of “my boys” are current or former military service members from across the globe.

We, as GRTs, get a little taste of what real service members do: putting ourselves through the paces of ruck movements with time hacks, low crawls and buddy carries. I hope I never forget that these actions all have very real, life-and-death practical purpose for men and women in uniform.

How does that jive then with my hippy-dippy ways and beliefs?

By sharing sweat, “good livin’,” and ACRT, I have gotten to know these men and women as individuals.

I choose to try to understand and appreciate them for who they are and what they have chosen to do. I don’t like and revolt against a few of the things said on challenges and on our internal chat boards… but I respect the individual right to voice their opinion and learn from their perspective. Isn’t that true freedom?

While we might not always agree, I love being part of this community of varied, crass, irreverent, hilarious, and tough individuals.

Being part of this team — this “family” — reminds me to look at people as people, just trying to do their best in the world with humor and spirit. I love supporting a company and community that strives for excellence and continually give back.

GORUCK ACRTSo I am inspired to give to my fellow GRTs in initiatives like F*ck Cancer and support for Sandy cleanup. I also proud to support Team Rubicon that both helps former-service members and the world at large — using those talents and skills learned in the military for good, constructive, positive purposes.

I have hope that our country and countries across the world start to use our military might in more benevolent and constructive ways — for I think that is the only way to stamp out violence and end these types atrocities. We will all be safer and when more across the globe are educated, safer and more free.

It can — it has to — start with we, as individuals, choosing to use our talents, however gotten, to do some good in the world.

Compassion breeds compassion.

Help and Hope

Finding my own inner peace on this score is an ongoing process. There is no doubt that I am giving some justifications here for thoughts and actions that really just defy reconciliation. What might not make logical sense is reconciled by my feeling sense.


I have found a supportive and engaging community through GORUCK and other athletic events that pushes me to adapt, learn and grow. I want to give back in the spirit of this community which has given me so much — not just athletically, but intellectually and in perspective.

The image of the news coverage I referenced earlier? Sent to me by a GRT-friend from the Czech Republic. Seeing the ignorance of geography and politics — Chechen versus Czech — through his quips and links could be blog post in and of itself. I think I have gone on long enough for today though, and want to end on the note that has helped me make sense of this and many life events: positivity and help out of tragedy.

The news and reflections on Boston that I have most appreciated are ones from the running/active/athletic community. For my heart understands that it is only in uniting together and celebrating supportive, altruistic, giving acts that we can deal with the tragedy of violence. (Last Link btw goes to my fundraising page for Semper Fi whose team I am running my first marathon with – they have promised to give a portion of the proceeds donated through May 1st to Boston)

As many posted up on social media streams: “… look for the helpers.” – Fred Rogers

Do something productive and positive with your time today. Lend a hand. Donate blood. Help a neighbor. Send positive energy out to the universe for those that suffer. Or yes, donate dollars to a worthy cause.

For my part, I have been recently drafted into service for a challenge to raise $1million for the Green Beret Foundation in the next year.

GBF WebsiteWhat started as a passing note on a Facebook page has turned into an effort to give back to those who have given so much in the line of duty. I struggle to write “in the fight for freedom” for I feel there is an inherent problem there, but the simple fact is those that don the green beret don’t choose where they are sent and have paid the ultimate sacrifice in disproportionately high numbers. I feel we owe it to them to support them and their families, and the Green Beret Foundation is dedicated to “caring for America’s quiet professionals.”

I wrote to my email readers on Friday that it feels good to be using my varied, spastic, still-in-process talents for a worthy cause (that website there, I built that). I stand behind that sentiment completely and without reservation. It is an honor to give back and help as I can — to reach out with love, compassion, and faith in the inherent goodness of individuals. I look forward to the next year of the effort with an incredible, varied, supportive, giving and growing team.

In the face of tragedy and violence, let us all try to focus back on faith, hope and charity. Outside of any religion, it is the only path toward human redemption and peace.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they might see your good works…”

The greatest is always love.

Sempre Avanti,

PS – Thanks as always for sticking through to the end. I know I rambled about and covered a lot of ground today trying to make sense of it all. I just needed to give voice to the snarling, whirling thoughts otherwise trapped in my cranium. I invite you to please share your thoughts ideas here in the comments, I appreciate them so much. We are — I am — always better for more perspective.


  1. Hell yes. You said it well, Jo.

    • Thanks Eugene! It’s always nice to hear that my words, however imperfect, have resonance and can even garner a “hell yes.” Hope we all can learn and do better in the world this and every day.

  2. Marvy post, Jo. It is refreshing to see someone considering what else may have been happening in the world while Boston struggled with the bombings. And it is nice to see someone unapologetically rejecting violence wholesale. Well done!

    • Thanks CJ. Again I thank the distance for my different perspective, and the different filter of news that creates, but yes, use of force always makes me cringe — whether on the side of “right” or not. I am not (that) naive and know unfortunately a “well armed militia” is needed to secure the blessings of liberty, but I think we do much better to try any other means of finding resolution to our personal and world problems.

  3. Well said, Jo! (as always!)

    The bit about earliest memories near the beginning reminded me that my earliest strong memories of a major world event are of no less than the Berlin Wall falling. I’m saddened that some of our current high schoolers — and maybe even a few freshmen undergrads… already? yikes! — likely have 9/11 as their earliest memories of a major world event but hopeful that many of them will read calls like yours and do something good for the world.

    • Thanks Adam. I remember that too and yes, most of my current crop of students weren’t even alive then — Soviet Union? huh? I heard a very interesting story around the time Osama bin Laden was killed about the reaction of the young and trying to understand that September 11th came at a precious age for that generation and for all of their growing into adulthood the US has been at war. It is interesting to compare that to how the falling of the wall might have touched our generation — breaking down barriers and joining together — instead. Regarless of the world stage, however, we are all just trying to make our way the best we can and I hope that all take a breath or three and do something, however small, to create positively today. Combined what a revolution that would be!

  4. Jo – this wasn’t a ramble in my opinion, it made great and perfect sense. And it does put things in perspective…

    During the extensive news coverage of the manhunt — I was part cheering them on, part frustrated that it got SO much media attention because not just around the world, but in our very own country there are so many acts of violence that never see the news. Then again, I’m not really much for the traditional “news” anyway, I prefer to seek out my information on my own through the internet.

    As always, thanks for your honesty and for sharing some thoughts that maybe others are afraid to share.

    • Appreciate it Dani! Truly, sometimes these types of posts are the hardest to push “submit” on but the feedback reminds me why it is important to do. Relieved that I wasn’t completely off base and that others share my feelings. I hope that through that we can collectively spread a little more awareness, perspective and good in the world.

  5. I need to visit this site more often. Well said, as someone who lives only miles from Boston and even closer to Watertown this post made me tear up a bit.

    Infect the world with positivity, it is the only virus we don’t need a cure for.

    • Thanks Barry. I love you quote about positivity and it is so true. I believe that we somehow get back what we put into the world and that it will spread if we do it right. I hope that my little corner here is positive and you remind me that I need to post here more often.

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