I learned something one day about ten years ago from my daughter, Sugar. She was four years old at the time. I have learned more from my kids than from anyone else in my life. I can’t let them know that, though. If I did, they would parlay it into a pony or something even more exotic.
We were sitting at a stop light. I was late to drop her off at day care and I was ranting at the stop light for making me even later. She offered this gem from the comfort of her child seat.
“You should just go Daddyboy.”
“I can’t Sugar, the light is red,” I said.
“You see Sugar, when the light is red that means that you have to stop.”
“Well, when can you go?”
“You can go when the light turns green.” Right on cue, the light turned green and I was moving again.
“How come you didn’t look both ways Daddyboy?” she said.
“Because the light turned green, Sugar,” I said.
“You see, Sugar, when my light turns green, the light for the cars going in the other direction turns red, and the other cars stop.”
“But how do you know that they will stop Daddyboy?”
“I just do.”
“Because, going through a red light is against the law, so everyone stops at the red light. That’s why I don’t have to look both ways first.”
“What about the people that don’t stop at the red light Daddyboy?”
“When they don’t stop at the red light usually something bad happens.”
“I hope nothing bad happens to us Daddyboy.”
“We will be ok Sugar. They will stop at the red light. Sometimes we just have to have faith in other people.”
That conversation has remained embedded in my mind for some reason. It always struck me as one of those things that is true and false at the same time. We do have to have faith in other people, whether we like it or not. We just have to believe that people will do the right thing. That people will do what they are supposed to. We have faith in people every day and we seldom realize it. We rely on people to obey the law. We rely on people to do the right thing. When you look at the number of people who actually do the right thing, it is amazing. It is miraculous to me. If you look around you will find that the number of good people vastly outnumber the bad people. That is why it stings so badly when the bad people act badly.
A bad thing happened at another school today. Committed by a bad person.
Sandy Hook, Newtown, Aurora, Columbine. The names say it all, bad people acting badly. Their badness may have been the result of a choice to be bad. Their badness may have been the result of a mental illness. Their badness may not be able to be explained or understood at all. Badness exists, though. And badness will never go away. We have made laws to prevent bad people from acting badly. We have forgotten one critical issue, though. Bad people do not care about laws. We cannot legislate badness away. Bad people will find a way to be bad people, no matter what. That is what makes them bad people. And that is what stings good people so badly. We want to do something to stop them.
The truth is this. The truth is that there is nothing that we can do to stop badness completely. No law, no treatment, no program, no medicine. The truth hurts sometimes. This is one of the times when the truth hurts. But it is the truth so it is best to accept it as such. And in accepting the fact that there is nothing that we can do to stop badness, we must resolve that we will stop at nothing to overcome badness with goodness.
In the aftermath of badness, show your goodness and don’t stop because the badness has passed. In the face of badness show your goodness and don’t stop because your goodness will sustain you. And when you don’t see badness, show your goodness and don’t stop, because badness is always there. Badness will happen somewhere again, one day, for a short period of time.
But never forget this other truth. Goodness happens everywhere, every day, all the time. That is also the truth. And I am grateful for goodness.
That is all.