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The Man With The Cowboy Hat

Today for the first time since the Boston Marathon bombings I walked past the Arredondos' house. On the poles in the postage stamp-sized backyard, the flags (one American, one Veterans for Peace) were at half-mast, waving gently in the breeze above a "War Is Not The Answer" sign.Carlos' pickup truck was parked in the short driveway. Everyone in Roslindale---a quiet neighborhood in the southwestern part of Boston---knows Carlos' truck. It's brightly decorated with flags, peace signs, and the names of his two sons: Lance Corporal Alex Arredondo, killed in action on August 25, 2004 during his second tour of duty in the Iraq War, and Brian Arredondo, who died on December 19, 2011. Brian committed suicide, having never recovered from his older brother's death.Most people at Sacred Heart (the Arredondos' parish) and in Roslindale also know that Carlos bears the scars of that war and those deaths on his body, as well as his soul. When Carlos first got news of Alex' death, he became distraught and set himself on fire with a can of gasoline and a propane torch, suffering 2nd and 3rd degree burns on 25% of his body.Since recovering, Carlos has worked tirelessly as a peace activist, reminding us of the horrible costs of war and traveling far and wide spreading the gospel of peace and patriotism. That's what he was doing at the Boston Marathon finish line last week when the bombs went off.There Carlos got to do for Jeff Bauman what he couldn't do for his sons, what others had done for him nine years ago: save his life. According to numerous reports, The Man With The Cowboy Hat (most neighbors know Carlos' hat too) scaled the barricades, put out the fire burning on Bauman's shirt, tied a tourniquet around one of Bauman's legs, and helped rush him to emergency care.Bauman, according to the FBI, then played a key role from his hospital bed in identifying the Tsarlaev brothers as the suspected culprits, helping---it seems likely---to save additional lives.What does this all mean? I have no idea. I hope, at the very least, it means Carlos can sleep more easily than he has for the past decade, that he can know deep down in his soul that his living and his ministry of peace has not been in vain.

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Carlos was the first helper at the Marathon who I read about---I loved his determination and drive to action. He undoubtedly saved Jeff Baumans life and with you, I hope that this wonderful selfless act will contribute to his personal peace.

Does the city of Boston have any kind of award for people such as Carlos who exhibit such courage? I'm not talking about people who are expected to do courageous things as part of their jobs ... first responders ... but just ordinary citizens who find it within themselves to do a courageous act when they are at the right place at the right time?If not, the city should adopt one. As should all cities.

When I read this story I thought of Henri Nouwen's book, The Wounded Healer: Only the broken can heal others.

It may mean that as God suffered with humanity in Christ. The only consolation we can draw from such a tragedy and Boston and the countless others like 911, Sandy Hook, Oklahoma City, and Columbine is that if God does not suffer with us, our suffering is futile. Despite all the pious interpretations of Job's sufferings, he had the courage to shake his fist at God and say you must suffer with me or you are no God at all. We need a God of compassion.

First line should have read: As God suffered with humanity in Christ God suffers with all who suffer.

"What does this all mean? I have no idea."Come now, Luke, sure you do. You wouldn't have written this post if it didn't already mean something to you, and suggest meanings that it could have for others. ;)The comment thread has already supplied half a dozen: determination, courage, selflessness, compassion, being a wounded healer, reflecting the compassion of God.I suspect that the meaning you are after, and do not feel ready to name, is the mystery of grace. Logically speaking, one expects tragedy to beget tragedy. That is what the death of the sons brought to their father, as he sought a painful end to his own life by setting himself on fire, and failed. But this failure becomes the starting point of another story, a paschal story.Here's my question. Have we "sweetened" our classic theology so much, made it so abstract and ephemeral, that we don't recognize it in blood and bone, in the crying out and shouting of the aftermath of this attack?