Todd and Patty Littleton, their daughters Kimberly and Tommie, and all their extended families, are our dearest friends. The live right in Tornado Alley lately. Their area is now under water and without power after the latest storms. They are safe, thank God, but not all are safe. In the midst of all the storm we are also reminded how death can come in the plain old ways, while massive death descends from the skies.
Todd and Patty, you see, are the sort of people who take in people. This is their tzadequah, their almsgiving act of righteousness. A few months ago they took in a young lady in need of a home. She was a teenager, one of those in the transitory years, encased in an adult body, beset by adolescent trepidation, full of life, somewhat devoid of direction. Todd and Patty took them to their home, made her like a daughter and went about the day to day business of saving her life.
And, now, she is dead. The merest kind of death, an auto accident, took her life. She is gone, irretrievably gone for now. The pain of separation in Todd’s texts to me last night bespeak a heart-full of mourning; a grief that will not let him go.
Richard Dawkin’s calls altruism the “selfishness gene,” but he is a Brit, after all, and his soul lacks empathy the same way British food lacks proper flavor. If altruism were actually selfishness, we would see it more often and there would be no mourning at the sudden end of its object. There are plenty of others who need a home, like puppies at the shelter. One is gone, run over down on the road? No matter, pick another, bring them home to the porch and so supply your own greedy need to feel good.
If there is grief, and if grief lasts, then selfishness cannot be the cause of altruism, or personal need the seed of kindness. In fact, one doubts the genetic coding of compassion. I, for one, suspect it is imparted with grace, by means of faith, and ruled by the law writ large on the heart.
Regardless, my friends mourn the death of their adoptive child. She is gone, she who was the better for their loving, and they are hurting, who are the pained in her going. A large part of the lovely state, Oklahoma, lies devastated today. A small part of the state is devastated the more.
God bless, oh, bless God, the pain of good people.