Sharon Randall: The world has never been safe
Monday afternoon, I pulled into a parking lot, short on time with a very long list of things to do before flying out of town for a speaking engagement.
High on the list was getting my nails done. Usually, I do them myself. With my husband’s nail clippers. But occasionally I feel the need for a slightly more professional look — preferably a profession that doesn’t involve cleaning an oven or changing the oil in my car.
So I hurried into the nail salon, hoping I wouldn’t have to wait, and was greeted by a beautiful young Vietnamese woman named Mai.
Mai has done my nails a few times in the past and her smile seemed to say she remembered me. Her English is much better than my Vietnamese. But we communicate with our eyes, as much as with words, plus a lot of pointing and other gestures.
She pointed to a chair. I took a seat and plunked my left hand into a bowl of soapy water while Mai went to work on my right.
A flat-screen TV mounted on a wall was tuned to a talk show. The host was saying something about Kim Kardashian.
I looked around the room. Five employees. Five customers, including me. Three manicures, two pedicures. Ten people, all from different backgrounds, different walks of life.
I wanted to know their stories.
“Square or round?” Mai asked.
“What?” I said. “Oh, square, please, with rounded corners.”
Mai smiled, nodded and went back to filing my nails. The room seemed peaceful and strangely quiet, aside from the burbling of the foot baths and the babbling of the talk show.
Then, everything changed.
The talk show was interrupted for a “special news bulletin,” and suddenly, we all stopped, as if frozen in time, to stare up at the TV, holding our breath, dreading the news, hoping for the best, fearing the worst.
And so it began, a gradual unfolding of a heartbreaking story about two explosions on a crowded street at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
We watched the report for what felt like a very long time, though it might’ve been only minutes. At some point, I realized Mai was looking at me. She was still holding my hand.
“You OK?” she asked softly.
I thought for a moment.
“Yes,” I said. “Are you?”
“The world,” she said, shaking her head. “It’s not a safe place.”
I wondered. Was she thinking of other bombings — explosives planted in the market places of Vietnam that killed and maimed countless innocent people? She was too young to remember them, but surely she’d have heard the stories.
“The world’s never been safe,” I said. “Safety is an illusion.”
Twenty minutes later, when I left the salon, I opted to skip the rest of my list and go home. Things that seemed so urgent an hour ago didn’t seem so important anymore. Besides, I wanted to check on a friend.
I decided to email rather than call. Phone lines in Boston would be jammed. Maybe an email would get through. It did.
Imagine my relief when my friend in Boston wrote back to say she and her loved ones were fine. But two members of her family — including her young granddaughter — had been at the finish line 10 minutes before the first explosion.
I sent her my love, along with my prayers for her city, for the victims of the attack, their families, neighbors and friends.
I don’t know if it helped her, but somehow it helped me.
That is what we do in the face of tragedy. We reach into our souls and tap into a bottomless well of faith and hope and love. Then we pour it out upon all of us, a great healing flood.
Beyond that, we live our lives each day, holding nothing back, as if there were no tomorrow.
The world isn’t safe. It never has been. The only way to make it safe is to refuse to live in fear.
Contact Sharon Randall at www.sharonrandall.com.