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Why us and not her? And why her and not us?

You don’t realize how big trees are until you see one on the ground. A very big one in the woods next to us came down in our yard the other day, but it came down perfectly, at an angle causing the least damage possible. Its fall also exposed a great and painful mystery.

The tree missed the big trees in the yard, pulling off only a branch from each, just caught the corner of the roof of the front room, wrapped around the house into the front yard, covered the front steps, and came to rest with a branch just barely touching the car in the driveway.

A foot to one side or the other and it would have wrecked a lot more. Had it come down straight toward the house, it would have crushed the roof peak and our daughter’s bedroom, where she was lying on her bed reading. Had it come down a few feet to the right of that, it would have crushed the living room where I was sitting.

Life Was Good

Having looked at the tree filling our yard, I wrote a Facebook post that ended saying how grateful we were, and then enjoyed seeing my Facebook friends respond. The “Likes” poured in. Many of them used the “Wow” face. Life was good, despite the tree now filling our side and front yards and blocking the front door.

Then, scrolling down, I saw a post from a Facebook friend, Leticia Ochoa Adams, one of the people I always read. She’d had a very hard life. Sexually abused as a little girl, she had pushed through to live a serious Christian life those of us more fortunate felt inspiring. She lived her life in public in a way very few would do, and hers was a great witness to courage and grace.

She wrote: “I never thought that I would be the mother that has to let all of you know that my child killed himself, but here I am. Today Anthony took his own life by hanging himself in my garage. I’m a mess. Please don’t tell me he’s in a better place or that he’s an angel. That will only make me madder. I have no clue how I am going to go on…”.

Anthony, her oldest son, 22, left a fiancé and two small children, as well as his mother and siblings and friends. The severe depression he had fought all his life took him.

Life for me that evening had been all cozy and nice, happily middle-class, even with the tree filling the yard. I could enjoy the apparent Providential care, or luck, that kept the house and my family safe from a seventy foot tall tree that weighed who knows how many tons. The house was safe, we were safe, and I had a story to tell. Life was good.

My life was good. My Facebook friend’s life was hell.

Why Us and Not Her?

Why us and not her? And why her and not us? Why did a predator attack her when she was just a little girl when my childhood was so storybook safe? Why did she have things so hard and I have them so easy? Why does she lose her child to a disease and mine be spared because a huge tree fell exactly where it should?

In the days after the tree fell, some Christian friends told me the way it fell was Providential. “God is watching over you,” they said. That kind of talk tidies up a great and painful mystery. Was he watching over me and not over my friend that day? Has he been watching over me since childhood and not giving her a second glance?

All we can see is that my name was drawn out of the hat, hers wasn’t. This had nothing to do with any virtue or effort of my own. She deserved blessing upon blessing, but so many good things were handed to me that were not handed to her.

Why, I have no idea, though the question still haunts me. But I do know this. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required, and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. I think the cheerful talk of God watching over us helps us forget that. It can make us feel comfortable in the world, cozy and safe, like a child in his nursery watched over by his parents. We think of these blessings as special gifts, and gifts require nothing of us.

Why us and not her? And why her and not us? God knows. I don’t. Those of us who have been so blessed should not dwell on feelings of God’s special care. Take everything we have as a blessing, as all grace, and to ask what our specially blessed life requires of us.


Readers are invited to discuss essays in argumentative and fraternal charity, and are asked to help build up the community of thought and pursuit of truth that Ethika Politika strives to accomplish, which includes correction when necessary. The editors reserve the right to remove comments that do not meet these criteria and/or do not pertain to the subject of the essay.

  • This is a nice little piece on a question we all probably have thought about. I don’t look at situations like this as “God was looking out for one and not the other.” That sounds like some version of a prosperity Gospel outlook. I take situations like either as being part of God’s over all plan, at times requiring hardship and at times requiring fortune, all leading toward the culmination of the end of times.

    • Bruno

      God looks over all, and He looked over Christ even though it didnt seem so.

  • juliaduin

    Sadly, way too many people act as though they did deserve their blessings and that those of us who are less fortunate deserve our troubles. They would never be so bold as to say that out loud, but that’s what they think. It does make you wonder why bother praying. I’m sure the mom of that 22-year-old prayed plenty.

  • Multiplicity of Infection

    Were those 18 on whom the tower fell more wicked than the others?

    • Howard

      That is a much overlooked verse — one I thought would have gotten much more attention after 9-11-2001. Sadly, we were too busy congratulating ourselves for being so amazingly wonderful that much of the world hates us out of envy.

      Back to situations like those described in the OP, though. Far too often, we make the same mistake as Job’s friends; we come up with trite “explanations” for mysteries that are not revealed to us, and which we are probably unable to comprehend, much less accept, in our current states. These “explanations” can cause a great deal of pain and discredit us. Job’s friends did well while that sat silently beside him; sometimes that is all any of us can do for another.

      • Multiplicity of Infection

        I think Woody Allan had it about right. Eighty % of life is showing up. You don’t even have to say anything most of the time.

        • Howard

          I’m not much of a fan of Woody Allan, but there’s something to what he said.

  • grateful1

    When such questions weigh on us, it is good to gaze on a crucifix.