‘Why Is There So Much Suffering?’

Desperate pleas for help.

By Kevin RR Williams

HAPPENISM Volunteer work often finds me in some less than desirable neighborhoods. To give you an idea, I entered a large apartment complex, reminiscent of the "Projects" in East Chicago where my grandmother lived. These were four three-story interconnected buildings, with about 100 units each.

    While knocking on the door of the person that I came to visit, a neatly groomed slight man in his early twenties appeared from nowhere and asked, "Can I use your phone to call 911? I'm about to kill myself." As I stood somewhat stunned, he respectfully persisted, "I need to call 911 for an ambulance. I was assaulted by my father and I am about to kill myself." He was quite coherent and did't appear roughed up. My mind began weighing likely scam scenarios with the possibility of a genuine need for assistance. Could others have been lurking around the corner if he bolted with my phone?

    I responded, "Do you want me to phone 911 for you?" He urgently replied, "Yes," and not unlike Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, repeated his story. So I made the phone call, attempting to explain the setting with the young man talking over me in the background, "I ran out of my meds. I'm hearing voices and I want to kill myself. I need an ambulance," he said again. The operator asked for identifying information like name and apartment number. As I attempted to mediate the conversation, Hoffman snatched my phone to speak with the operator directly. (I poised myself in anticipation of a chase.) Afterwards, he kindly handed my phone back to me and disappeared around a corner.

    Police just a half block away responded in minutes. As I left the building, they were directed to the vicinity of the young man that requested assistance. In the background, he was heard repeating his story.

I have asked friends what they might have done if they encountered such a surreal situation and they all seem puzzled. Reasoning out loud, they appear to side with the notion that it could have just as easily been a scam or too dangerous. Hence, most would have either ignored him or simply said, "No." What would you have done?

Why Is There So Much Suffering?

While exiting, a different plea was seen that had been scrawled just outside the threshold of the apartment complex. Over what appeared to be sodium peroxide powder used to clean up a blood spill from a stabbing or drive-by shooting was the simple message, "Why God!!"

I didn't meet the person who wrote it, but I extrapolate the complete question to be, 'Why, God, did you let this happen?' or simply, 'Why, God, is there so much suffering?' Is it serendipity or divine intervention that the January 2014 issue of The Watchtower being offered by Jehovah's Witnesses addresses this question? Without permission to reprint, I can only direct readers to the official website, where the article entitled, "Why Does God Allow Suffering?" is located (for the moment, at least).

Most of the time, religious topics are intentionally avoided on this blog. For one reason, many people with divisive views are unable to discuss theology without becoming upset. Additionally, I not wish to appear to be commercializing it since products are sold here. But for this #happenism, I hope both the young man seeking psychiatric assistance and the person who may have suffered the loss of a loved one accept and find comfort in the magazine if offered to them. All of us might reflect on our ability to discern the difference between feeling sorry for someone and providing help.

Tags: charity, creator, danger, death, killings, mental health, religion, tragedy