“Why” is the question… “What” is the answer…

 When my daughter was about 5 years old, we stopped into a fast food place. Next to us in line was a young guy, early 20’s, leathered up with a spikey mohawk.  To see that now is no big deal – I see 8 year olds sporting the Do, but then it was pretty risque’. Anyway, he was pretty comfortable in his hair, and I was comfortable in his comfort. I have seen pretty much every type of style, so he didn’t faze me. Kids, however, have a way to draw you into the most ridiculous and uncomfortable situations. My daughter lookup up at him, and without any hesitation, looked at me and said loud enough for everyone to hear

Daddy, why is his hair like that?

He didn’t flinch, but since he was no more than 2 feet away, it was obvious that he heard her. I imagine that there was some level of satisfaction that his hair was noticed – if it were me, I would have taken it all in. In any case, the daddy in me kicked in, and I didn’t want my daughter to be freaked out by someone that looked, well, different. My response? “I dunno… you’ll have to ask him”. She really wasn’t that interested. We got to the front, ordered our food, and left. after that, it just became a memory…

This week has been a week of “why’s”. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, thousands affected, innocent people losing everything, including their lives. Heck, I don’t even have to look around the world to ask why. My world looks like it is heading one way, then there’s a roadblock…


There’s a kind of power in “why”. Really. Normally we think just the opposite, but “why” gives us a certain ability to handle our current situation, to deal with the hurt, the disappointment, or our feeling of helplessness over what we are facing. Asking why means that someone has to answer. Even if the answer doesn’t make sense, we are now in control… I asked, they answered, I have accomplished something.

This is also the danger in why… it is a big tease, because in the end, the answers don’t always help. One of my favorite bible stories is when Jesus is strolling with the disciples, and they pass a guy born blind. In an uncomfortable moment, these guys who had been helping others (with Jesus’ help), weren’t really sure what to do with this man and his need. But they could do something… they could ask “Why?”

Jesus, why is this guy blind? Whose fault is it? His own, or his parents?

You can hear the guy saying “I’m right here! I can hear you!” Anyway, I love Jesus’ response to the disciples. Paraphrasing, he says “you guys are focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of trying to know something about this, you should be trying to do something about this.” Opportunity is most often disguised in a “why”.

So, instead of spending my time asking “Why?”, it’s time to look to “What”. What can I do with the unexpected twist in my life? What can I do to help out in Japan? The wonderful thing about focusing on “what” is that it takes us out of our own need and feeling of helplessness. We might feel powerful asking why, but true power comes when we do something about the question. The other thing that happens is that others are willing to join you when you ask “what”. I applaud those that have already done the “what”, and started funds to help the victims of Japan. Red Cross, America Cares, and other reputable organizations give us opportunity to turn “why” into “what”. Even J’s Love Project is an example of taking action instead of just trying to understand.

I’m not throwing out “why”, for, like my daughter, sometimes you just want to know. But when I see those in need, I’m trading my “why” for “what”. I invite you to do the same.

5 Replies to ““Why” is the question… “What” is the answer…”

  1. Excellent thought, k. I think on matters of faith, the why might be a really important question to ask. (It’s the why questions that trip me up all the time.) But in the very real business of living our lives, the “What can I do right now?” question has proven so much more useful. You’re right. It takes us out of our head and puts us in the now, where maybe we can do some good.

    1. If we can get the balance right, asking why when appropriate and what when appropriate, or rather not getting hung up on the why (often I do that and it paralyzes me for the what), I’m sure there will be fulfillment in that. Thanks for reminding me to not lessen the importance of why when it should be asked.

  2. Hey Ken, so enjoy hearing you in this medium!!! Really suits your style:) Keep it up! What I notice is your precious empathy. I know others feel bad for the things going on in our world but there is an empathy that comes across when you write that is golden. It’s funny, cause it is like, that calm, even keel personality of yours somehow is like a gem under a microscope when you write:) I think that is how to describe it:) Anyway, it really shows up when you talk about the things that prick your heart.

    Oh, by the way, had a really hard time figuring out how to post a comment. It was really not obvious.

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