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Mary Jo Hotzler, Published December 18 2011

Hotzler: Hardship, loss often fall upon good people

Why do bad things happen to good people?

I’ve been asking myself that a lot lately, and no doubt this time of year provokes such introspection even more than ever.

There have been times in the last 12 months when I’ve posed that question about things happening in my own life. But more than that, I’ve wondered it aloud as I’ve watched truly good people I know deal with things like surgeries, alcoholism, depression, divorce, chronic health issues, the death of a parent, and suicide. All in the course of a year.

Maybe this just means I’m officially a grown-up now. After all, as adulthood sets in, lives are bound to take twists and turns.

Also, I think my profession allows me to hear and become closely acquainted with more heart-wrenching stories more often. Especially lately.

Take today’s story on Alexia Stein. She is our Beautiful Woman.

Two weeks ago, WDAY’s Kerstin Kealy and I went to Alexia’s home to interview her for the story. This past week, I again met up with Kerstin along with Chris Linnares, who has been the visionary behind the Beautiful Women project. All three of us found ourselves talking about Alexia. Not in bad way. It turned out none of us had been able to get Alexia off our mind since meeting her and hearing her story.

Here is this amazing woman – sincerely one of the most well-spoken, kind-hearted, honest people I’ve met in the last decade working at The Forum. She has lived through every mother’s worst nightmare – the death of a child. In fact, Alexia has been through this three times in a very short period of time, and yet here she is carrying on with life and using her heartbreak to help others. Did I mention she somehow also had time to bake banana bread before we arrived at her house?

I felt the same about our first Beautiful Woman, Debbie Fowler. Debbie, too, has experienced unbelievable hardship in her life, and what does she do? She decides to become a clown and turn the tears into laughter.

So why do bad things happen to good people? Maybe it’s because they’re good people.

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “God never gives you more than you can handle.” And how about “things happen for a reason.” The quotes are a bit overused in my opinion, and yet I really have come to believe both are true.

So back to these Beautiful Women stories. I’ve heard from people who have read through all of the amazing nominations online and they’ve commented on how many stories are rooted in tragedy and loss. Not all of them, of course, but it seems something about those stories strikes a chord in people.

The day I interviewed Debbie Fowler, she shared a quote with me that I’ve kept around ever since. It really brought it all together for me and helped me understand why these stories are such a source of unlikely inspiration. It’s even given me some insight into why bad things happen to good people and why those good people end up touching our lives in such beautiful ways.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elizabeth Kubler Ros

Readers can reach Forum Deputy Editor and SheSays Editor Mary Jo Hotzler at (701) 241-5582 or mhotzler@forumcomm.com.