In times of grief, all of us thirst for hope. It is the hope of a better day which allows us to tolerate the pain of the moment. When I started looking for hope after February 1, I found nothing but fear and anger. How can the victims’ families cope? How badly were our officers scarred? How could someone willfully inflict such pain? How long will this sense of violation last?
I suppose these negative feelings are natural, but the darkness they create is decidedly unhelpful. I suspect most of you are grappling with the darkness as well. I can feel the pain of my hometown with every breath I take, and it is almost overwhelming.
There is one memory which comforts me, though, and it speaks to a fundamental truth about this place. I practiced law before I took this job. I was a pretty darn good lawyer because I knew the law like nobody else. As I considered the Town Manager’s job, more than one person thought I should be psychologically evaluated for giving up the challenge, the money, and the security. But I simply could not resist one undeniable fact: in Bridgewater, people love each other in a way unlike any of the other counties, cities, or towns I had worked with.
This sounds like a marketing bromide, of course, but it is the absolute truth. We have our disagreements, as Facebook will attest, but more than most places, we care about our neighbors’ well-being. Mutual caring is simply part of our cultural DNA. Probably the most celebrated person in our history is a man who just cared enough to wave to people every morning.
The best word for this culture of caring is agape. It’s a Greek word meaning something like “unconditional benevolence.” (The word is often tied to religion, but with a nod to the First Amendment, I’ll steer clear of that.) The cool thing about agape is that it is unearned love. We care for our neighbors not because they’re wonderful—or even because we like them—but because, here, it’s just how we treat other human beings.
On one hand, it seems tragically unfair that darkness would visit such a caring place. But on further reflection, it seems to me that darkness is hopelessly overmatched here. It simply cannot exist in a community of 6,000 people bringing light to one another. Good people, we will overcome the darkness arm-in-arm. Take care of your neighbors. I promise they will take care of you. Herein lies our hope.
In no way do I trivialize our pain. It is horrible, and it will linger. I simply believe in our power to walk through the horror and emerge on the other side—the Bridgewater Way. Together.