Hearing this question from an 8-year-old certainly had more impact than the hundreds of times I had also felt this way. Considering the likelihood that millions of people down through the ages have experienced this same dilemma, as humans adjusted to events in every country on every continent, I was no more prepared to deliver an answer.
Something was different in my son that day. His normal after-school routine – door flying open, “Hi dad!”, backpack slamming into the sofa, click of the TV knob (yes, at one time people actually touched their TV sets in order to watch them), and then plant himself rooted on the floor in the center of the living room – was absent.
On this day, there was no sound but the soft shuffle of sneakers into the kitchen behind me as I flipped the ham and turned the fried potatoes in the pan. My “What’s up?” remained unanswered as I tended one of our favorite meals, stirring the creamed corn. After an awkward pause, I said again, “Hey little buddy? What’s going on?” His downcast eyes and motionless slouch screamed for my attention. Turning off the burners, I slid the kitchen chair out from under the table with one foot and dropped into the seat in one fluid motion pulling myself up with growing concern. “OK, let’s have it. What’s wrong bud?” And there it was, shattering the silence like an explosion: “Why do good people have to suffer?” Many emotions – fear, sadness, pain, doubt, hopelessness, panic, anger, frustration, and rage – streaming simultaneously from deep dark brown innocent eyes.
Without a word, recognizing with great joy the proof of true compassion, I went to the only source of reasoning my mind could grasp in the moment. The poem I had written the previous April called “The Choice”. In it then, was my response; and now, today’s message to us all.
what would life be worth at all
without a choice to rise or fall
in or out, day or night
love or hate, peace or fight
give or take, hot or cold
thin or fat, young or old
smart or dumb, slow or fast
wet or dry, first or last
would we know what’s right from wrong
would we all feel weak or strong
sad or happy, more or less
smooth or rough, cursed or blessed
straight or crooked, here or there
near or far, plain or rare
black or white, quiet or loud
sharp or dull, shamed or proud
tell me friends, what would it be?
If I were you and you were me?
the choice of life is live or die
are you really bold or shy?
can you see the reason now
or are you blind to truth somehow
believe me soon or it’s too late
learn to love and not to hate
take your love and give some more
be the richest of the poor.
J. M. Desiderati/April 1983
Caring Choices understands the duality of life and the complexity of facing death. The choice is ours in how we deal with the reality. Make your choices with compassion, empathy, honesty and hope. Not everyone has to suffer.
(c) 2013 Caring Choices