I try to think of myself as a citizen of the globe, but today I just felt like a Bostonian. I wanted to wrap my arms around the city I love and never let go again. I’m on vacation in New Orleans but spent the day wondering how I could have possibly thought it was a good idea to leave home.
I was exploring the streets of New Orleans today when I learned that two explosions had gone off near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. The mini-computer in my pocket (my phone) started unfolding the terrifying story in front of me. As I walked by palm trees and mardi gras beads in tourist shops, I couldn’t take my eyes off the social media stream. The more I read, the farther I felt from home.
It’s no Boston here. New Orleans has lush vines trailing off balconies instead of melting snow and over-used shovels. They have crawfish jambalaya instead of clam chowder. And they have trolleys on gridded streets instead of aggressive drivers on curvy roads without signs. Even though New Orleans is a beautiful city, it’s not mine.
While distracted and full of emotion, I meandered through the French Market near the riverfront of the Mississippi. I passed by a stand where I saw some small marble goblets that reminded me of ones that I got in Lahore, Pakistan. I asked the shopkeeper where they were from, and he confirmed that these ones were from Pakistan also. I smiled and told him that I had been to his country. He smiled back and asked me where I was from. When I told him that I was from Boston, he expressed sorrow for the events in the news. He showed me an article about the Marathon explosions that he had been reading on his smart phone when I approached the stand. He seemed as upset as I was. We both shared what we knew about what happened before I went on my way and bought some Shea Butter from a friendly West African shopkeeper nearby.
Simple moments can mean a lot, and today I got an important reminder. We are all connected in this shared experience of humanity. It can be hard to leave home, but I do it because my community is bigger than the people I see every day. When I travel, I come home appreciating every local flavor with renewed taste buds.
From over here I can see it, and I bet it’s clear in Costa Rica, China, and even Pakistan. The world is embracing Boston today. We are not alone.