Sometimes crappy things just happen. I did not come up with this idea. Someone has made millions of dollars marketing products espousing various forms of that sentiment.
I recently watched a Zulu language film called Yesterday about a woman in a tribal village in South Africa who contracts AIDS. Though not based on any one person’s true story, I’m sure it’s a true story many times over.
The main character, Yesterday, is patient and wonderful and gets this disease that entails more suffering than those of us with access to hospitals and morphine will ever guess at. It’s hard not to wonder why the world is not more justly constructed after watching this story.
As the priest Anne Lamott quotes in one of her essays says, why is not a useful question, though I still want to know the answer. Seeing as I am not likely to get it, I decided to review what I think I know.
Here are some things I don’t believe:
- God tests us.
- God gives us trials to strengthen us.
- Bad things happen so that good things can come from them.
- We attract—through our attitudes, beliefs, or ways of living—everything that happens to us. Some things, sure, but not everything.
Here are some things I do believe:
- Grace happens.
- There are things that help.
- These things are extremely important even though they appear small.
It helps to cry or yell or beat the pillow. It helps to lay all the crappiness before God and say, “What the hell? Would you do something about this please?” It helps to eat a hot fudge sundae with a friend or go for a hike.
Help doesn’t mean that the situation changes, that a miraculous healing occurs, that the next day a job offer arrives out of the blue. Those things may happen, but a lot of the time they don’t. More often, we feel less alone and more able to keep going.
That seems insufficient in the face of the AIDS epidemic in Africa or any number of other global disasters, but an epidemic is composed of individuals. In the movie, one person stands by Yesterday. When they are together the awfulness lifts a little. Bring on the hot fudge.