When our first reaction is criticism…not compassion

Many, many of you have heard about and prayed in regards to the recent tragedy of the Kaza family and their loss of little Sebastian. I ask you to continue your prayers for the repose of sweet Sebastian’s soul and comfort for the family who has shown a resilient grace in the loss of their precious boy.

Sebastian’s mother, Tabitha, in the days following Sebastian’s death, has posted this to facebook in response to all the queries and prayers. I urge you to read both of those links (with tissues) before reading on here.

While the out-pouring of prayers and sympathy is robust, there is a minority who cannot offer their condolences nor prayers for the criticism pouring out. If you haven’t seen it, consider yourself blessed. My seeing of it has made checking into social media a near occasion for sin.

I have heard everything from outrage to tsk-tsking about this sad story for a variety of things. Why did they not allow life-saving measures when the doctor asked? Why did they choose to donate his organs? And the kicker for those with large families: why were teenagers allowed to be held responsible for a young child, even for a few minutes? And the list goes on. In one of the many closed autism groups I am a part of on facebook, a woman posted the story asking for prayers and someone responded that the parents must have too many children to be tuned into the needs of the little guy who is “obviously autistic” which is why he climbed into the cat tree. (Children with autism, particularly those with sensory issues often like pressure on their bodies and so, yeah, it’s not unreasonable to think a child with autism might, might climb into an opening like the one in the cat tree. But this was a three year old playing with a kitten, so it is perfectly reasonable to think he may have crawled in after the kitten and that autism was not part of the equation at all.)

For many, in our search for answers (which is human) we demand explanation and it invites criticism. A few years ago, I needed to ask a prayer request for someone who did not really want people to pray for her because she was deeply embarrassed and upset about the situation she was in and did not want people to know about that. At that time, I asked friends and family to pray with the disclaimer, “no details, God will know what this is about.”  The need for this disclaimer has become more and more evident from my friends who have used it because they need prayer and compassion, not judgment and criticism.

The tragedy of the loss of a child seems to bring out the nastiness in some people. Even many who are initially sympathetic could quickly turn. The loss of little Sebastian Kaza is not a new appearance of this. I remember similar reaction just days after Shelby was born when the author of Angels in the Water, Regina Doman’s young son was killed in a tragedy where he was hiding behind a rear tire of the family van and was accidentally backed over and died. One of the fundraisers I saw at the time was for a new van for the family which brought out some, um, interesting reactions. Being the mother of a child with autism, every time a child wanders away and there is a search and especially when the child dies, the wunder-parents of all neuro-typical children come out in droves not to be sympathetic, but to talk about how the parents should not have had custody and should never have become parents and prevented this sort of tragedy. I’m going to tell you right now, God forbid something happened to Shelby and someone said that to me, I would not be responsible for my reactions to that kind of ignorance and blatant hatred.

The bottom line in all these tragedies, if you haven’t been there, you don’t understand the circumstances, and are therefore unfit to judge. We see a lot of this too over the summer when, sadly, children are sometimes left in hot cars and die. I see a lot of “these people should not be allowed to have children” or “never should have become parents.” Recently Abby Johnson posted a gentle reminder to her facebook page about this which was met with ridicule by many. And a few people did point out that there are the parents who do it on purpose not out of malice but they run into the store “to get one thing” and don’t want to wake the sleeping baby and suddenly they are stuck in the store. But hidden amongst those comments were a smattering of “I-never-thought-it-could-happen-to-me-and-used-to-think-all-parents-who-did-this-were-idiots-until…” some were cases of change in routine. At least one was the teenagers were getting the littles out of the car and got overwhelmed and missed one, the one who was still asleep and therefore not vocally reminding the teenagers.

And because we cannot understand so many of these circumstances without having tragically lived through them, it’s not our job to jump in with criticism. It is always prudent, it is always correct, to respond with compassion. With prayer. Whenever a child like Sebastian or Joshua passes, there are immediate investigations by CPS and law enforcement. If evidence of wrong-doing is discovered, then charges are filed and actions are taken. Yes, I realize there are flaws in the system, but as Christians, our duty is charity. My parents’ pastor often says that being a Christian does not make you judge, jury or executioner only a witness. You can witness your Christianity by praying for families in these tragedies. Especially for those you do not know or only hear of through any form of media. Our prayer is as compassionate an act as we can ever offer to those who are suffering, and it’s a much better use of time to offer charity and compassion than judgment.