A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


It’s late at night – or early in the morning, depending upon you perspective.  I’m tired, but I can’t sleep.  Instead, I’m sitting in front of the TV, hopping from news channel to news channel, trying to learn something – anything – about the latest unfathomable tragedy.

To be honest, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for here.  I certainly don’t want to see any more grisly footage of the crime scene.  Nor do I expect to find peace or comfort or closure within the words of dispassionate news reporters and commentators.  Even the eyewitness accounts of students who were close to the tragedy leave me feeling hollow and hungry to know more.

I guess the one thing I keep wanting . . . yearning . . . needing to know is the one thing that ultimately we may never know: why?  Why did he do it?  Why did he snap?  Why did he think that killing and injuring so many innocent students was . . . well . . . even thinkable?

Why?  Why?  Why?

I suppose that some of my angst is driven by the knowledge that my eldest son, Joe, is a college student living in Virginia.  Although he is an adult with a family of his own and has been living away from home for nearly eight years, I still worry about him.  And while I understand that this was an isolated incident, it serves as a painful reminder of every fear and trepidation you ever felt as a parent from the first day you sent your first child off to school.

This is the ultimate schoolyard bully doing the ultimate schoolyard harm.  And tonight . . . or this morning . . . I want to know why.

Perhaps that is why I find myself flashing back to another angst-ridden night and morning many years ago.  Our beloved Chihuahua, Toro, was missing.  Mom had sent him out to wait for me to come home from school, as she always did, but he wasn’t in the front yard when I got there.  We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening searching for him throughout the neighborhood and beyond.  Toro was not a wanderer – he rarely left the confines of our living room, much less our yard.  So by the end of the day it was pretty clear that he had been taken – and that we probably wouldn’t see him again.

 I was heartbroken.  Toro was the only pet we ever had that I had any real affection for.  He was fun and playful, with a sweet and loving disposition that I understand is rare for his breed.  He had captured all of our hearts and was part of the family.  And now he was gone.  I cried myself to sleep that night and awoke with tears in my eyes the next morning.

“Why would someone just take him?” I asked my Dad when he came in to get me for breakfast.  “I would never take someone else’s dog.  Why would someone do that?”

Dad sat on the bed next to me.  For a moment we just sat there in silence, both of us wrestling with “why.”  At last he spoke.

“I wish I could tell you why people sometimes do bad things,” he said.  “My guess is there are probably lots of reasons.  But even if we understood them, it probably wouldn’t change how we’re feeling this morning.  We’d still be sad.”

Dad was right.  No explanation could have made me feel better about losing Toro.

“So what do we do?” I asked him tearfully.

“Well, for now,” he said, smiling, as he wiped a tear from my chubby cheek, “we cry.”

Dad understood that sooner or later I would move on from my personal pet crisis.  That’s the way of life.  Eventually, we always have to move on – as individuals, as communities and as a nation.  But in the meantime it’s OK to feel hurt.  It’s OK to feel vulnerable.  It’s OK to cry.

And to ask “why.”

# # #

— © Joseph Walker

For more ValueSpeak, please visit

E-mail Joseph at: 

* * * Announcing Joseph Walker’s newest book! * * *

Check the link to find out more or order a copy of this uplifting collection.

Look What Love Has Done: Five-Minute Messages to Lift Your Spirit 

"How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." is available on-line through