A drunkard starting a fight slips and falls ass first onto the floor, a lousy tipper catches a patch of ice as he exits the restaurant complaining about the, “uninspiring,” experience, a business mogul goes to prison for embezzlement– these are things that may cause me to mutter the phrase, “Bad things happen to bad people,” or possibly more accurate, “they deserved it.”
But what do we say when a vigilante offering inexpensive surgery to those in need finds a tumor in her uterus? And what do we say when another woman with a publicity smile shakes from her routine after falling and calling for help after refusing treatment for a chronic disease. What did I say when I said, “I love you,” to my stepmother for the last time because she was dying from liver cancer. Would I dare, then, to believe that bad things come only from badness?
Fine, so prison and cancer are different. Maybe.
I guess the question I’m searching for the answer to is, “Why don’t bad things only happen to the bad?” But before that question, I am asking, “What is badness?”
The woman that fell- I see her and her husband at least once a week as they pass through their routines together. Truth be told I never liked her very much. It wasn’t that I thought she was a bad person, it was just a sense of distrust that a person putting on airs can project to a stranger. This distance she placed between us grew into a conspiracy about how she must be in her private life. That she must be cruel to her spouse, that she looked down on others, that she is part of a class of people who disenfranchise others. But today she was none of those things. In all likelihood she was never any of those things. She was only a woman who wanted to seem happy because she didn’t know if she really was all of the time. After her spouse helped her up and back to her table, I heard her speaking to her through his teeth. He was yelling at her, angry that her fall had caused them to need to return home. Was it sadness expressed as rage? Or frustration that churned at every sight of her growing weakness? All of this time I watched her, so sure that she was the one who would speak to him through teeth (now I wonder why I thought there had to be one at all.) I was sure she was a bad person. But now I am sure of so many other things and none of them are a judgement of her character, only an assessment and understanding of the immense struggle that we all occupy in one way or another.
Today, I am terrified thinking about what makes people the things they become. Terrifying also is the reality that sometimes a person does nothing but good and still suffers.
The battle of good and evil is alive in me today and it’s tearing around something fierce.