Last week, my boyfriend's nine day old nephew, Leo, was rushed to the Children's Hospital in San Francisco. The doctors believed he had contracted some sort of virus, but were not entirely sure what was wrong with him. What they did know was that this precious baby boy was very, very sick, and needed immediate medical attention. There were many calls to loved ones informing them of Leo's condition, and asking for prayers and good thoughts. People were comforting and offered the usual sympathies. Then someone said the seemingly inevitable words, "everything happens for a reason." There is no phrase I loathe more than "everything happens for a reason." Partially because I think it is an empty statement, something people say when they don't have anything else to say. Partially because I think this phrase gives people permission to blame God. And partially because I have a hard time believing it. Why is it such a frequent condolence? How are some people comforted by such a cliche anecdote?
This "everything happens for a reason" mentality demonstrates our drive as humans to reason in psychological terms. We want to make sense of events and situations by appealing to desires and intentions. We want the bad stuff that happens to have some purpose so that we can justify the occurrence. We need there to be a reason for why bad things happen to good people. Sometimes, there aren't answers to our endless questions surrounding unfortunate circumstances. Sometimes, life just happens.
Over the last week, I've seen a family band together around an innocent baby, around his parents, around one another. I've seen grandparents serve as babysitter for days on end and aunts fly across the world to be at the hospital alongside their family. I've seen tears, fear, heartache, and distress, but I've also witnessed unity, strength, tenacity and love. Which got me thinking. Maybe, just maybe, everything does happen for reason. But maybe that reason isn't because God is trying to teach us a lesson or because He willed it to be. Maybe the reason is that someone had a cold that baby Leo contracted. That is a reason, and it doesn't require intense psychological analysis, but there is the age old rule of cause and effect. A virus infected a frail newborn. He got sick. The end. Perhaps everything does happen for a reason. Human error is a reason. Human frailty is a reason. Human mortality is a reason.
I don't believe that it was part of some divine plan to put this little boy's life at risk. I don't believe that every little thing that happens in life is part of some scripted cosmic course. But I do believe that from our weakness and bad occurrences, good things can happen. Baby Leo is getting a little better every day, and I don't know what good will come out of his extensive hospital time, but I know that if we let it, we can approach the situation positively. We can leave thanking God for saving Leo. We can be grateful to people for their prayers and kind works. We can hug one another a little tighter, understanding on a whole new level that life is precious. I don't wish this horrible fear or heartache on anyone's family, but I am comforted knowing that God did not will this to be. The reason this happened is human weakness and germs, but good can come from every circumstance. The choice of what good will come to be is up to us.
Until next time,