The Battle Between Good and Evil
By Randy Barth
Working at my desk on Friday, within just a few hours, several messages came across my computer screen that illustrated the presence of good and evil in our world. The evil part you are already all too well aware of. Adam Lanza, a 20-year-old boy with mental health issues and a mother with a cache of weapons, took some hand guns and a semi-automatic assault rifle from his mother’s cache and murdered her in their home and then proceeded to Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, where he murdered 20 first-grade students and six school employees before turning a gun on himself and committing suicide.
Over the weekend, the nation reflected on how this could possibly happen. Many of us also asked, “Where is God in all of this?” Some of you have heard me tell a story of good and evil and that was pivotal in my life. In the late 1980’s, I attended a small fundraiser for an organization I was involved with called SPIN – Street People In Need. I was on the periphery of a conversation that a group was having with a Catholic nun about good and evil. One guy really got in the nun’s face and asked, “If there really is a God, why does He allow homelessness?” The nun turned the question around. She said, “I think God asks us the same question. I think he wants to know with all of the riches I have blessed you with (we were standing in Newport Beach), why do we allow homelessness?”
With that admonition ringing in my ears, the question I have is, “What do we as a society do that creates the environment for the massacres at Newton, CT; Aurora, Co; Oak Creek, MI; Tucson, AZ and Blacksburg, VA?” Why do these mass shootings occur far more frequently in America than in other civilized societies?
Is it because of the major cuts to mental health services that we made in the 1980’s (for powerful insight read “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” by Liza Long). Is it because of the culture of violence that we tolerate and even celebrate in our media and especially through our video games? Is it because we have more private guns per capita (almost a gun for every man, woman and child in America) and unfettered access to assault-style weaponry that other civilized societies don’t allow? Is it some combination of these and other factors?
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in Gulag Archipeligo wrote, “The line between good and evil runs not between principalities and powers, but it oscillates within the human heart.” We all have the capacity for good and evil. And, it is only when we feed ourselves with what is good, when we invest in our children so that they grow up healthy, safe and ready to learn, when we support the mentally ill among us effectively and when we limit the access to the tools of war right in our own neighborhoods, that we will begin to slow down these atrocities.
I mentioned that I had several messages on Friday dealing with good and evil. Santa Ana-based THINK Together provides an out-of-school support system around more than 100,000 children at 400 locations across California. Bill Skelly, the first-rate principal at Heninger Elementary located in a tough neighborhood in Santa Ana shared this with me about one of our part-time staff, Angelina Alcantar:
“I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know some of the great things that are happening at Heninger thanks to your staff, in particular, Angelina Alcantar (Miss A). Miss A has been working at Heninger for many years. She even lives in the neighborhood, she is truly part of the Heninger community. She has always gone above and beyond whatever her work assignment is…her job truly is her passion. She has had Halloween haunted houses, transformed classrooms in remarkable learning places, and even has had neighborhood bbq’s for her students. This holiday season though she went further still! She has been gathering gifts for the last year in hopes of enriching the holiday spirit of our students. Yesterday, she was able to provide every student in the THINK Together program with a gift. Even more than the gift…it was the manner in which she did it. She transformed a classroom into an elves paradise. She has given a moment of joy to close to 200 students. I want to commend her and thank our Site Coordinator, Ms. Gutierrez, for allowing her to do these things. When someone models this type of giving, it causes one to reflect on what they are doing to better someone’s holiday…I for one, will be doing a little more this year because Miss A has been such an inspiration. Hope everyone at Think Together has a great holiday…and if you ever move Miss A from this site…”
Then, moments later, I received another beautiful note from Anne Masters, the principal at Haynes Elementary in Ontario. Anne was commending our Site Coordinator, Cindy Martinez, on her excellent implementation of Stephen Covey’s The Leader in Me and for the giant impact Ms. Martinez has had on her school.
God has blessed America with riches beyond our wildest imagination. We are the richest country the world has ever known. Might the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary be the moment when we begin to answer the God question, “With all that He has given us, why do we allow this to happen?”
It takes a village to raise our children. If a modestly paid, part-time worker like Angelina Alcantar can have an impact on her community, just think what kind of impact that you can have with all of the resources God has given to you?