Lesson learned: All is not as it appears

Published 12:31 am Saturday, May 8, 2010

Recently, a good friend was having dinner with her husband and their grandson. The conversation was mostly about issues in the lives of 13-year-olds.
“You never know what goes on inside a house,” Mary Helen counseled her grandson.
She could not have known how fortuitous the conversation would prove.
Soon after they left the restaurant, they received an alarming phone call. The 15-year-old granddaughter of a friend close enough to be family was dead. Suicide.
Before the night was over, young Drew had witnessed shock and raw grief. He had seen a coroner arrive in a picture perfect neighborhood.
“You’d never believe something like that could happen here,” he told his grandmother later. No doubt he will question appearances for the rest of his life.
The same “you never know” message came in a much different story the same day. My brother, an Opelika resident, forwarded a news story about his former neighbor.
“Remember my neighbor,” he wrote. “Lived next door and I added on to his house for him? He just failed to mention he was a former U.N. ambassador.”
The man, according to published news reports, Jean-Damascene Bizimana, was the U.N. ambassador from his native Rwanda. Now a U.S. citizen, he has come under fire from the National Prosecution Office of Rwanda. A spokesperson for the group is trying to link the 51-year-old former ambassador to the ethnic violence that claimed 800,000 lives in 1994. While he was not in Rwanda at the time, his accusers say “he didn’t do enough to distance himself from the murderous regime.”
A beautiful child dies; a typical middle-class American turns out to be a former high-level ambassador. Things are not always as they seem.
There are many take-away lessons here.
Too often, we humans are satisfied with what we have. We aspire to live in a different location, think that our lives would be better in a picture-perfect neighborhood, in a different job, whatever, whatever. If only we were taller, thinner, or could have a new wardrobe.
We forget that heartache also lives in seemingly perfect places, and that former ambassadors can blend in in middle class neighborhoods.