“What? You don’t like chocolate anymore?” He asked them.
“No, Saba,” Tommy was pulling away. “I still like chocolate. It’s just that I don’t want to go here.”
The older man looked inside at the tables and chairs, the shelves of light and dark chocolates, the cloudy displays of ice creams and sherbets, and the nice looking young girl holding the menus standing in the open door way smiling at them. It looked like nothing had ever happened here. It looked like a perfect place to take his two grandkids for a holiday weekend.
Daniel was busy double-thumbing something on his smartphone and didn’t seem to notice where he was at the moment.
“Why, Tommy?” he asked.
“Because,” Tommy said.
Daniel stopped double-thumbing and explained, “He doesn’t want to go inside because this is where those terrorists came in and shot and killed those four people.”
Tommy nodded his head somberly, agreeing with his brother for a change.
“Oh,” the older man said, “I see.”
They walked over to the low wall surrounding the open square where kids were skating and riding their bikes. They all sat down facing the square with their backs to the chocolate shop only ten meters away.
“If the world is such a good place, why are there such bad people?” Tommy asked his Saba, which means “grampa” in our language.
“I ask myself that all the time,” he replied. “If the world is such a bad place, why are there such good people as you kids and your parents?”
“That’s not what he asked, Saba!” Daniel interjected. He was the wiser of the two brothers. He was going to be bar mitzvahed next month. A long time ago, when we lived in tents in the desert, that was when a boy became a man. He still felt like a kid though. “He said ‘if the world is such a good place …'”
“I know what he said, Daniel,” the older man smiled. “I just wanted to show you both that reversing what he asked was also an interesting question.”
Tommy said, “What I meant was why do bad things happen? Why can’t we be protected from them?”
“Your parents, your brother and sisters, your grandparents, and everyone else who loves you want more than anything in the world to protect you from bad things,” Saba said, “more than they would want to protect themselves.”
“But what happens if you are not with us?” Daniel asked.
“That’s why we try to keep you close to us when we go somewhere.”
“What if the bad people are stronger than you?”
“Love gives good people strength they didn’t know they had.”
“What if they shoot you?”
“There will be good people around you who will try to protect you.”
“What if they run away with their kids or what if they’ve been shot too?”
Saba was quiet for a few moments. He didn’t really believe in God but he didn’t want to weaken their confidence. Neither did he want to lie to them.
Daniel asked, “Why do bad people do bad things anyway? Don’t they know they’re not good?”
Saba was thankful to be rescued from the previous line of questioning. “I don’t believe they think they’re doing anything wrong. Nobody does anything wrong intentionally. Everyone believes what he’s doing is the right thing to do.”
“How can anyone think killing an innocent person is the right thing to do?”
“Maybe we killed an innocent person whom they loved very much, like we love you, and they wanted revenge for what we did.”
“Why would we do that? We don’t go around killing children, women, or old people. Sorry, Saba.”
“Maybe we killed an innocent person by accident when we were trying to kill terrorists.”
“But who started it?”
“Nobody remembers. Everyone believes his enemies started it.”
“But who really started it?”
“I don’t know. It depends on who’s doing the counting.”
“Don’t they know we wouldn’t kill innocent people on purpose?”
“They don’t care what we say or think. They just care about what we do, like us. We don’t care what they say or think either, just what they do.”
“Why do they think revenge is the right thing to do?”
“They think that revenge is a kind of justice, when no other form of justice is available to them, just like many of us do, and everyone believes that justice is the right thing to do.”
“I wanted revenge when one of my classmates said I was too short to play basketball at recess,” Tommy admitted.
“What did you do?”
“Well, at first, I wanted to punch him in the stomach.”
“So what did you do?”
“I threw the ball into the basket. Everybody laughed at that and he said I could be on his team if I wanted.”
“If only people could think of other things to do to get even, besides killing, that would be good,” Daniel raised his finger wisely.
“Anybody up for an ice cream,” Saba asked, standing up and stretching his arms and back, “somewhere else?”
“Yes!” they both answered.
The older man offered each his hand and they walked away from the chocolate shop on the square. He said a silent prayer to no one in particular that today wouldn’t be the day and this would not be the place.