Today I was speaking with one of my HOPE Team members, who recounted a story to me of a friend who had passed, and the subsequent conversation with that friend's parents. The parents, were obviously and understandably in grief over their loss. The question though, that one of the parents asked the priest, got me thinking about a larger issue. The parent asked, "if there is a God, why did he take my child?"
It is a good question, but in my view, respectfully the wrong one. God gave life, breath and discernment to mankind. God gave this one creation of His — this one 'animal' in His Kingdom — the ability to think, reflect, to love, to grow and to evolve in our consciousness. To the point, I want to say again, God gave us consciousness.
He put us in charge of His planet, and asked us to do a good job taking care of it.
He also put us in charge of the other animals, and asked us to be responsible to and for them too.
Importantly, He also asked us to take care of "the least of these God's children."
The short version here, is that God placed his children — mankind (and of course this is shorthand for mankind and womankind) — in charge of things. Most important of all, He gave us free will.
To do as we like.
To select the red pill, or the blue one.
To go left in life, or to go right.
To do the right thing, or to do something else altogether.
Think about the traditional Christian definition even of Lucifer – the so-called Devil. Even he is only a mere fallen Angel. God gives even Lucifer, permission to exist. We all make choices. We are all human choice makers. Choice makers, for God.
We all 'play god,' so to speak, everyday of our lives.
Think about the next time you pull up to a light. You sit there in your car, your foot pressed on the brake pedal. As people stream by the front of your car — and as they have put their life trust in you as they each walk from one side of the street to the next in front of you — you actually have a choice to make.
You can keep your foot on the brake, or you can 'choose' to release it. If you release it, and worse still, if you press the gas, you have 'played god' in the worse way imaginable. And you have changed the lives of those you have come into contact with on this day — forever.
Or think about the fathers who plant seed, and the other individuals who flew planes for years spraying pesticide on that farmed land. And then think about months and years later, as others ate the food that came from those lands. From those seedlings, that planting and farming, from the spraying of pesticides. And then later, we find that some children got sick, or maybe others in their adult lives were told to have a disease in their bodies. Could it be that one thing is connected, to the other?
And if this is the case, who did these actions? It was not God out there in those fields, or working the controls in that plane. It was you and me. Human beings, taking actions every day, on this planet, in this world.
This, I believe, is a powerful example of what Gandhi famously had to say. "We must be the change we want to see in this world."
This is why I continue to stress how interrelated each of us really are, with each other. We may not strive to be dependent, but we are indeed interdependent. One one does in one part of the world, actually impacts another in an entirely different part of the world. What we do, wherever we are, changes our world, daily.
So father of a grieved and fallen son, I grieve with you sir. That said, please do rest in some comfort knowing that the God we love and respect, does not 'kill people,' or at least not in this way (you and I will know it clearly when He does). He did not kill your son. Unfortunately, we all did that. And now, we must be part of the larger healing process, for you — and for our world.
This is indeed our planet, to fix, restore, or to screw up for good.
John Hope Bryant is an empowerment leader, the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.