Keep on Running: Responding in the Wake of Tragedy

I’m typically not one to comment here on the blog in the aftermath of a tragedy. There seems to be no words that are adequate to compensate for the loss.

And, as someone who writes marketing tips for businesses, it’s hard to come up with something that seems appropriate for my blog and audience. Normally, I let a day or two pass and then resume business as usual. Which, I think is a perfectly fine way to handle the situation.

But, as a runner who completed my first marathon a mere six months ago, I’m absolutely struck by the catastrophic events at the Boston Marathon yesterday.

I can’t help but imagine the elation of seeing the finish line in sight only to be knocked off course and become injured by an explosion.

I can’t help but mourn for those lost in the tragedy.

I can’t help but ache for the thousands of runners who didn’t get to finish the race after months of training.

I can’t help but feel for the spectators who were supporting loved ones and complete strangers at the race who were caught in the middle of this disaster.

I can’t help but feel relieved that my friends who ran the race, Tom and Tamsen Webster, are safe and sound.

I can’t help but commend the volunteers, police and first responders and everyone who pitched in to help those who were injured.

How should you respond?

In times like this, it’s hard to know the right thing to say or do – whether personally or professionally.

Should you blog today? Should you continue business as usual with your marketing and social media efforts?

And, to be honest, there are no right answers.

But, if you’re looking for ideas of what you can do or ways you can help today – or after any tragedy – here are some ideas:

Ways You Can Help

1. Donate.

Donating after a disaster is always a good idea. But, do it because it’s the right thing to do – not to promote your brand. As many have noted, donating with strings attached (i.e. “we’ll donate for every retweet”) is not the best approach.

Thanks to the outpouring of donations, the Red Cross quickly had enough supply to meet the demand in Boston. However, the Red Cross is always looking for blood donors and giving at any time is a good way to make sure the Red Cross is stocked to meet demand in the midst of a crisis.

If you’d like to give financially, consider giving to the Red Cross or donating to one of the 35 charities runners supported during the Boston Marathon. (Hat tip to Sarah Mason for sharing this idea from Chris Guillebeau.)

2. Serve.

Following a tragedy, look for ways you can serve others. When tragedy strikes, think, “what can I do to help?” If you look around you, there’s almost always a way you can serve.

For instance, Google quickly created a person finder tool to allow friends and family members confirm that runners were okay. The Boston Globe set up a spreadsheet to help displaced runners find a place to stay. Volunteers helped those around them and runners ran straight to blood banks to donate.

And, this just scratches the surface. There are countless stories of kindness following the bombings. Even the smallest good deed can make a huge difference.

3. Pray.

There’s nothing more powerful than prayer in times of crisis. ‘Nuff said.

4. Hug your loved ones.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned from disasters, it’s that it causes us to be even more thankful for our family, friends and loved ones. There’s never a bad time to let people know you care about them.

Last night, I watched as my friend, Margie Clayman, posted kind messages on her friend’s Facebook walls. She just wanted let everyone know she cared. And, when she couldn’t get to everyone, she said this:

I can’t leave messages for everyone I wanted to tonight. I have this terrible problem…I know too many wonderful people….

Nope, I didn’t make it to everybody’s wall, but I got to tell a lot of people without question how much I care about them, and for me, that is what I needed to do today. I can’t abide these tragedies. I have to believe that love can triumph in this world. But I also know that nothing can be taken for granted. You all can’t be taken for granted. The time I have to tell you I care – it can’t be taken for granted, either. 

Throwing a pebble into a pond creates an incredible amount of ripples. Take the love I’ve sent out and send it to other people who might need to know they are cared for.”

I couldn’t have said it any better.

5. Keep running.

Mr. RogersAs a runner, I think there is nothing better I can do than to keep on running. Next weekend, is the Country Music Marathon. And, I plan to run.

I could cower in fear of another senseless act or I can run to show that I am not afraid. That we won’t let this disaster stop us.

Whether you’re a runner, volunteer, spectator or fan, I hope you’ll continue running too.

In other words, I hope that you don’t let this tragedy get you down. That you won’t lose faith in humanity. That you’ll choose to see the good in people instead. That you’ll focus on the helpers.

Because, after all, runners are persistent.

In the wake of Boston, let’s keep on running. Together.

How do you respond in the wake of tragedy? What are your plans to respond to the tragedy in Boston?

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  • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

    Beautiful post. Let us all be like Margie and create every-expanding circles of support and love: you’ve added to that today Laura.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Thanks for the kind words, Kaarina.

      We definitely need more Margie’s in the world. She has one of the biggest hearts on the web. We could all stand to learn from her shining example.

  • Patty Swisher

    Well said, Laura.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Thanks, Patty.

  • http://twitter.com/ltcassociates Stephen D. Forman

    Well done on a difficult topic, Laura.

    One thing that really impressed my wife and I about the events yesterday was how quickly both first responders (who were fortuitously positioned) and civilians alike were galvanized into action and empathic camaraderie.

    That everyone– to a man and woman alike– said, “We’re not going to let this shake us, or change our indomitable spirit” makes one proud to be an American.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Amen. I think that’s the amazing thing about tragedies – it often brings out the very best in people. Instead of losing faith in humanity, events like this help restore our spirit. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by, Stephen. Much appreciated.

  • http://twitter.com/sbradeen Susan Bradeen

    Social media creates a very short bridge between us and distant lives. We feel more strongly, and we experience more vividly, things that used to be so far away. Showing those in pain that the rest of us are with them is one of the greatest comforts society can give. Thank you for the post, Laura.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Wow. Such powerful words, Susan. You are so right. Thank you for sharing your beautiful perspective and for the kind words as well. This is definitely the time to stand in solidarity with others.

  • http://www.swordandthescript.com/ Frank Strong

    I like the idea of “keep running” Laura, and perhaps have a greater appreciation for your earlier comment in this context. We can’t stop moving forward, but little pause, and a thoughtful post like this, is the right path. IMHO. Nice post.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Thanks, Frank. I perhaps didn’t articulate myself too well over at your blog, but I’m glad you can see the greater point at what I’m getting at with this.

  • Richard

    Next years Boston Marathon will be bigger than ever. You (whoever your coward a## is) can’t break our spirits or keep us down.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Totally agree, Richard. Heck – I’m half tempted to see if I can get a charity bib for next year!

    • http://newenglandmultimedia.com/ Michelle Quillin

      Richard, I’m not a runner (heck, I’m not even a walker), but your comment makes me want to start, if only to be absolutely defiant in the face of evil. #RunForBoston

  • Adam

    A really thoughtful post Laura! So well written. I think I would add one other thing to do: Reflect.

    I’ve seen a lot of pieces/comments in the wake of Boston about how to communicate after a crisis. I think some feel pressure to say something, anything. They shouldn’t. We do not all have to comment on everything that happens. People should comment if they have something heartfelt to say or valuable to add (like you did here). But I think people (and brands) should know that it is okay to stay silent. To reflect, to help out if possible, and then to just keep running.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Thanks for the kind words, Adam. That really means a lot.

      And your point about pausing for reflection is spot on. Just like the advice our mothers would give us – if you don’t have something nice (or in this case, valuable) to say, don’t say anything at all. Silence is often the best response – especially if you’re struggling for the right thing to say. Excellent advice.

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    It’s a tough call, how to handle something like this. The challenge for me, the issue I’m already seeing is the lack of judgment, of perspective, of true reflection. I didn’t want to turn a tragedy into content, content w/ the primary purpose of promoting my biz, myself. But sadly I started seeing that almost immediately – posts and lists, linkbait w/ barely any connection to this terrible event – floating around the Internet.

    You did this very well Laura. You’ve got a personal connection as a runner and yet you didn’t make this about you. You wrote this for others, w/ genuine intent to help people.

    When the news first broke, I almost mixed it up w/ a few on turning off autobot feeds, updates for a few hours. Instead I held my mud, just tweeted that once and let it go. IMO Adam is right – there are times when silence is the best, most measured option – then ease back into running business as usual. FWIW.

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      You’re right. Davina. This is always so tough. I think this is where so many businesses get in to trouble – as soon as you make it about yourself, it will almost always backfire.

      I almost didn’t post this for the very reasons you mentioned. I didn’t want to seem like I was grabbing for attention. But Monday night, the words just flowed and I felt compelled to share what was on my mind in a feeble attempt to help others think through this.

      I don’t think there are any right answers. But as you and Adam so wisely pointed out, reflection and empathy is so important. We must keep the focus where it needs to be – on those directly impacted by this tragedy. Anything else may seem misplaced.

  • http://newenglandmultimedia.com/ Michelle Quillin

    I needed this again today, Laura! I keep hearing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” in my head. America will not be brought to her knees by evil as long as we remember that we are a not only a free people, but that were created to use our freedom for the good of others, both here and abroad.

    (I love what Margie did!)

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      As much as we hate tragedies like this, it does give us the opportunity to see the remarkable good in people. We will emerge stronger and better for it – especially if we follow Margie’s wise example.

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Love it. Turn off the news. Do something. Hug your loved ones. Or, keep running :) Couldn’t have said this any better. Yes!!

    You rock, and so does Margie!

    • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

      Yes! Especially turning off the news. Staying informed is important, but obsessing over it can just drag us down. Thanks for the kind words! :) And yes, Margie DOES rock!!!