Thursday, October 13, 2011

An Atheist in Heaven

An atheist died at an old age and discovered, to his surprise, that there is a God. Now, it was time for an accounting.

“During my life, God, you were never there for me. I prayed. I begged. I demanded. Yet, you did not respond.”

“What would you have me do?” God asked.

“When I struggled to feed children in the orphanage in Vietnam, you could have helped. I begged you for help.”

“Go on,” God replied patiently.

“Do you remember the time when I shot one of my own men for raping that little girl in the village? Every time we raided a VC village, he raped one of the young girls. I reported him to HQ, but they didn’t punish him; said it was his word against mine. Where were you then?”

“I was there,” God said.

The old man continued venting.

“I gave up on you after Vietnam. Decided the only justice in the world would be whatever I could create. I tutored friends in college for free. When I met that family with no father, I made sure the kids had Christmas presents. It wasn’t much, but it was all I could afford during college. I lived my whole life that way, because you didn’t care.”

“Do you really think I didn’t care?”

“You never answered my prayers. What else could I think? I gave up on you and tried to do all the things I could to help people. I donated time in kid’s sports programs and made sure old people in my neighborhood were okay during heat waves. One time, I saw two men trying to entice a little boy into their truck. Do you remember that?”

God nodded.

“I stopped them and escorted the boy home. Where were you? Where were you when that fishing boat capsized and the grandfather could not rescue both his grandkids at the same time? Froze my ass off swimming out to that boat, but somebody had to do it. You would have let the little girl drown. Some loving God you are!”

With a wave of his hand, God brushed aside the fog of life and there stood angels that the old man recognized. They smiled and nodded at him, people whose lives had been touched by the old man’s generosity or willingness to get involved. With another hand gesture, images formed of young people, none of whom the old man recognized.

“They,” God said, “benefit now from the trust fund you left on Earth. Some receive warm food when they would have had none. Others are poor students who manage to get a college education through the scholarships your trust provides.”

God wasn’t through. He stood, uplifted his arms, and thousands of people appeared in images among the clouds. “These are your people. You touched all their lives through others you helped.”

The old man was astonished to see the results of his lifetime, but his anger remained.

“If one small man like me can make such a difference, then why didn’t you do something for humanity?”

God waved and all the angels and people vanished. He descended the stairs from his heavenly throne and placed his hand on the old man’s shoulder.

A tear perched on the old man’s eyelid. “I tried, I tried my entire life to help people. I did the best I could, but it never seemed enough. Why didn’t you do something?”

“I did,” God said. “I sent you.”

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