Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The sadness of when "Why?" doesn't have a good answer

(written a few weeks ago, only posted now...)
I read with such sadness yesterday about the bus crash in Switzerland that killed 28 people, 22 of them children around the age of 12.  Reports state that the schoolchildren were returning home from a ski trip, when the bus smashed into a wall at the end of an emergency access tunnel.  I can only imagine the horror of the situation, and the effects on the families, friends and communities of these people. 
One of the challenges of being a parent is trying to achieve that magic balance of support, love and protection, and recognizing that independence is an inevitable result of a child’s growing up.  How do we ensure that we don’t stifle a child’s quest to become responsible and self-sufficient as we aim to protect him from harm and the dangers of the world?  In the case of the bus crash, however, I can only imagine that those parents of the children who died will be asking not just “Why?”, but “Why my child?”.  By all accounts, the driver of the bus was well-rested and there were no other vehicles involved.  The fact that the group was returning from a week’s skiing holiday makes it all the more painful – for anyone who has had the thrill of being in the open air on a sunny slope, you’ll know there’s not much that is more life-affirming that the rush of cold air and exhilaration of a good run.  Even when you fall over, you’ll get back up and get better, and by the end of a week you’ll no doubt feel so much more confident than you were at the start of a trip.  The apr├Ęs-ski aspect is also fantastic…that feeling of relaxation after a day out in, recounting the tales of good runs or funny stories is a wonderful bonding experience. 
These children have been taken too early, there’s no  doubt, and I recalled various bus trips throughout my own school years – shorter ones to Asheville Zoo, or frequent trips around Catawba and its neighboring counties, to softball and basketball games and cross-country meets.  Longer trips to DisneyWorld and New York.  They were wonderful experiences, because they were not only fun but also indicated that you were “included”.  Not going seems like it would have been awful, when all my friends were.  But what if my parents had decided I shouldn’t go, that it wasn’t safe or that they didn’t trust the bus trip or the fact that they wouldn’t be there to chaperone?  Therein lies the dilemma about keeping your children safe and letting them go, and my heart just broke yesterday for any families of these children – and there probably were some – who might have debated whether they should allow their child to go on the trip.  What about parents where one supported it and one was more reluctant – what will the feeling be from the parent who didn’t think it was a good idea?   How deep will the guilt be for the parent who supported it? 

I believe in an afterlife, and although I don't know what it will look like, and whether it will be just like this life or something completely different, it certainly reassures me when I consider tragic situations like the Swiss crash, and contemplating my own mortality.  I hope I don't find out these answers for many years to come, by the way!
Incidents like this, though, do make you ask that question: "Why do bad things happen to good people?"  Especially innocent ones.  I don't know the answer, but in one of my team meetings recently (the one where we did the Personal Passport exercise), one answer was proposed, which is: "It rains on the just and the unjust alike."  I get that, but it still seems horribly unfair. 
My prayers go out to all the families and communities of the victims of this bus crash.  I hope the sun is shining on the slopes where those children have gone on to. 

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