Have you ever found yourself wondering why bad things happen to good people? Some may even wonder why good things happen to bad people, but in my opinion, any thought given to bad people is a waste of time.
So, why do bad things happen to good people?
It has taken me over 40 years to find an answer to this question. This may seem like a long time to you, but consider whether or not you know the answer yourself. Just ask any clergy, they are faced with this question every day. I once heard a Rabbi being asked to explain the holocaust, to which he replied, there is no explanation in terms of theology because no matter your belief, it is unthinkable G-d had anything to do with it.
A dear friend of mine recently received some of the worst news you can get. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor the most aggressive of its kind. He is in the prime of his life, 56, married with four children. He lost both of his parents at a very young age. He and his middle brother were tasked with raising their youngest brother, until the middle brother was tragically struck down by a random drive-by shooter, (nearly 20 years ago), today the shooter is out on parole. The fallen brother was both a lawyer and a CPA, the older surviving brother, the same, and the youngest brother, who was left to be raised by his older brother (now with the brain tumor), is a leading medical doctor in a major US city. His first reaction to finding out about his brother’s diagnosis was simply, “unfair.” And it is.
We all have our stories, don’t we?
But this is not about all of the “unfair” stories in the world, there are simply too many. This one is about the story which answered for me, the question, “why do bad things happen to good people.” This is the story of Lenka.
Have you ever come home from work or from one of those, “it’s been one of those days,” and kicked the dog? (not literally) . When I was a young professional, I would simply come home, grab a quart of Haagen Dazs ice cream, and complain about my day until my roommate could no longer bear it or I finished the quart of ice cream, or both. Later in my thirties I began to watch my weight (no more quarts of ice cream), and I didn’t have a dog around—but I had a friend, my very dear friend, Lenka and she had ears the size of Dumbo.
And, no matter the complaint, and no matter the circumstances, when I was all said and done, Lenka would simply look at me, smile and say, “for everything bad is something good.” It wasn’t simply easy for Lenka to say this, because she genuinely meant it.
You would think hearing those words, “for everything bad is something good,” over and over again, would get annoying after a while, even fall on deaf ears. But, not when Lenka said them. When she said them, I listened. And, every time she said those words, I replied,“I don’t believe that at all. Tell me one good thing about what happened to you, then I’ll believe it.” And, no matter how many times she said it, and no matter how many times I challenged her on it, we agreed to disagree in the end.
You see, Lenka, was no ordinary person, she was extraordinary. I truly could see it in her eyes the first time we met. So much so, that within weeks of knowing her, I couldn’t help myself from asking, “What happened to you?” It was Lenka’s strength that made you feel comfortable asking the difficult questions. It was her belief in “for everything bad is something good,” that enabled her to answer. She told me about the night she was meeting a friend at a bus stop. As always the case, Lenka was on time, but her friend was running 5 minutes late. In those five minutes, her assailant came up from behind, wrapped a linked chain around her neck and dragged her off into the neighboring woods. In those woods was an abandoned shack, where he proceeded to savagely rape her. He had every intention of killing her in the end, and she knew it.
She had no education in psychology, certainly no prior experiences from which to draw upon, but she was absolutely certain she wanted to survive. As was Lenka’s nature, she knew no one in his right mind could do such a thing to another person, so she appealed to her attacker on that basis. She convinced him it was his “dark passenger” and not him that was doing this. That he could be forgiven for this unthinkable crime because it was not his fault. She showed compassion towards him, and she forgave him. Lenka gave him the power to overcome his dark passenger, just long enough to let her go. He was later caught and served less than three years for his crime.
And on one very cold night, a few years later, Lenka and I were walking back from dinner. I was complaining about something work related, (so insignificant, I can’t even remember what it was), but it was that night and that conversation I will remember for the rest of my life. After I was done complaining, and Lenka was done listening, she turned to me with her genuine smile and said, “For everything bad is something good.” I was particularly annoyed that night (again, over what I have no recollection), and I snapped back with “tell me one good thing about what happened to you, just one, and I will believe that!” Now, to this day I have no idea why she decided at that point in time and on that night to answer me. In fact I was certain she didn’t have the answer for herself. But she did. She knew it all along. And on that night, for whatever reason, Lenka decided to tell me why bad things happen to good people.
“So, tell me Lenka, tell me one good thing about what happened to you?”
She said, “That it didn’t happen to someone else.”
Thank you, Lenka.
Thank you for answering one of the more difficult questions in life.
Yes, our problems are real—production by its very nature is getting it right among the multitude of things that go wrong; the actor is stuck in traffic, a camera breaks down, the shooting day is behind schedule, the horse freaked out during the stunt, it rained and we have no cover set…
Yet, the sun does eventually shine again. It may not be later today or even tomorrow, but rest assured, it will shine again—and, sometimes it’s as easy as imagining it through the clouds.
But, no matter your problems, no matter how big or small, just remember: “For everything bad is something good.”