One day, God was sitting on a park bench with his head in his hands. A little girl, who had been playing on the slide in the park ran over and sat beside him.
“Why you looking so glum, chum?” she asked him. Her feet, clad in the latest fashion forward footwear, were covered with sand and swung freely back and forth in anticipation of his answer.
God looked up at the little girl and smiled at her. His eyes looked tired, but they were bright and blue and sparkling. He looked exactly as she thought he should, though perhaps a little shorter in person. She also didn’t think he’d smell like her great-grandmother, but maybe that’s just something that comes with age. Besides, he was God, and he could smell any way he wanted. If she were God, she might have chosen lavender or cinnamon instead of old people smell, but that was his choice.
“Glum, Emma? Do I look glum, like a sad old man?” he asked in return.
She nodded, suddenly shy. She was talking to God, after all. Not even her mom, who was the high-powered CEO of a major multinational bank got to do that. She reached over tentatively and took his hand. Yes, he looked like he could use a good hand-holding.
“Well, I was just thinking how sad the world can be sometimes.” he answered. After a pause, he sighed a deep, weary sigh. “It just seems no matter how hard I try, the world ends up being full of more sadness than it should.”
She nodded sagely. “Like when your ice cream melts and falls off the cone before you can eat it all?” she asked.
“Yes Emma, something like that.” he said.
Emma swung her feet a bit, and thought about this.
“But. But you’re God. You can make it any way you want.” she offered.
This actually made him chuckle. From the mouths of babes.
“Yes Emma, I can make it any way I want. And I think that’s maybe why I’m a little bit sad.”
The girl was clearly puzzled. With a flourish, she pulled some chewing gum from her pocked and offered it to him. He took a stick and popped it into his mouth.
“My mom said not to chew gum, that it made me look like trailer trash and would rot my teeth, but I like the taste.” she said.
“Your mom is pretty clever, isn’t she Emma.” he replied.
A silence fell between them as they enjoyed Emma’s forbidden spearmint.
“So, why don’t you just make everyone happy then?” she asked.
God thought about this for a long time and chewed thoughtfully.
“Well, I could do that. But that’s not the point. The problem is that because I made it this way, I’m ultimately responsible for everyone’s sadness. Do you understand that?” he asked her.
Again, she seemed puzzled, and shook her head.
“Okay Emma, think of it this way. Because I can do anything, make it anyway I want, I’m responsible for the way everything is, right?”
She giggled and kicked her feet.
“That’s silly.” she answered.
Now it was God’s turn to be puzzled.
“Why is that silly, Emma?”
“Because. You gave everyone free… free… that thing. That thing so that they can all make choices.” she said excitedly.
“Free will, Emma? How does that matter?” he asked.
“Yeah, that. Well, you can do anything, so sure, you’re responsible for everything you do. But if they choose to do it, it’s their problem. It’s like my mom says. If I don’t clean my room and I get grounded ‘cos its messy, that’s really my fault, on account of me knowing I’m going to get grounded for not cleaning my room and choosing to watch Kim Possible or something instead.”
She paused for breath and plunged on.
“So, if people are unhappy, it’s because they’re choosing to be unhappy. It’s that free willy thing you said. People have to choose to be happy, and if they don’t and they’re sad, it’s they’re own fault.”
God smiled and chewed in silence for a few moments.
“You’re a smart girl, Emma.”
And with that he stood up. It was time to get back to the great works. He gave her a hug and patted her on the head.
“Go play now. Your mom would be upset that you were talking to strangers.” he said to her.
“Be happy!” she yelled back at him over her shoulder as she ran back to the slide. When she turned to look from the top, he was gone.