In the wake of terror and tragedy in my home city, my heart aches with the great “what if” for family, friends, and strangers. Violence is, of course, senseless. Yet it is our human nature that wants to make sense of it – to feel safer and more in control.

The what if can take so many forms. What if I had run 2 minutes faster or slower? What if that sweet 8 year old boy had been standing 10 feet to the left? What if my husband’s meeting ended early and he made it to the finish line to to take photos? What if that girl in India had just taken a different bus?

In a moment, joy can turn to sorrow and excitement can turn to terror. Strangers can become your lifeline and the best of humanity emerges. Bravery can it exist in the absence of fear. Connection cannot exist without the promise of loss.

The what ifs can bring us together or drive us apart. Sometimes the “what if” becomes “you should have.” This is a sign that we believe we have far more control over the universe than is possible, and we are smug in our judgement that we would have done differently and avoided pain and hurt. In Boston, the “what if” is overwhelmingly “what if it had been me,” which unites us in sadness and sorrow, but also weaves us together as humans.

Hug a friend. Smile at a stranger. Say what is left unsaid. We are all just seconds and coincidences away from something senseless. We are all connected by the great what if.