I believe bad things can happen to good people. I’m not saying that bad things can’t happen to bad people; or that they generally happen to people that are less deserving of it. It is more likely to touch home when you hear how a fresh out of high school boy is killed, compared to a criminal being killed in prison. Unfortunate events have a much more profound impact when they occur to someone just like me and you, because we realize that death and misery are real and are much closer then we all expect.
In 1980, my dad’s best friend, Alan, was riding around Chicago with a few guys on their motorcycles. It was a normal, predictable day. Everything was in its regular routine, until a reckless driver drove his truck over the median and into oncoming traffic. In a matter of seconds, the lives of everyone who knew Alan were changed forever.
After over a week of life support in a hospital, his family decided to let him go, knowing there was nothing else that could be done to save him. At the age of 20, his dreams of graduating college, pursuing a career, getting married and having kids were taken from him. His parents had to bury their own son that they only were able to spend 20 short years with. All because one person mad a careless mistake, killing a good person, who did nothing to deserve what he received.
Now, 28 years in the future, I wonder how things might have been different if he was sick that day and stayed home. How has the life of the truck driver changed with an innocent person death on their conscience? Would I be who I am today with Alan’s influence in my life.
Events like Alan’s untimely death bring us to face our worst fear, other than public speaking, our own death. No one wants to accept that something like that could happen to them. Everyone is planning on living a long, happy life. But when someone you know and care about is killed long before his or her time, you realize that bad things can happen to good people, and that bad things can happen to anyone.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.