by Denzil McDaniel 

Hagar the Horrible is a character in an American comic strip, a caricature with a commentary on modern-day life. In one drawing, Hagar is being absolutely battered by the storms of life and looks heavenward pleading “Why me.”

In the second drawing, the reply comes back down “Why not?”

How many of us going through difficult times have asked that very “why” question.

I read somewhere that former American vice-president Joe Biden had the drawing on his desk, sent to him by his father who urged him not to overthink the tough things that had been thrown at him. Biden, who has been in the news again after deciding at the age of 77 to run against Trump next year, has had more than his fair share of tragedy.

In childhood, Biden was burdened by his family’s heavy drinking and suffered from stuttering badly in his speech as a boy. But he practised speaking in front of a mirror, decided to become teetotal when he grew up and against all odds won his first election in 1972.

But within months, his young wife and their one-year-old baby were killed in a car crash.

After rebuilding his life, Biden married again. But a couple of years ago his son, Beau, aged 45, died of brain cancer.

It’s no wonder people such as Joe Biden would look up and ask “why me?” and yet the man who initially “felt God had played a horrible trick on me” was encouraged by his dad to keep a sense of perspective.

This week, too, another man was in the news which recorded the passing of Stevie Chalmers at the age of 83. Chalmers had a great life.

Brought up in Glasgow, in 1955 at the age of 16 he took ill and was brought to hospital in the city where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis meningitis. This was virtually a death sentence as everyone diagnosed died, and with a death rate of 100 per cent and no known cure, the teenage Chalmers was given weeks to live.

But a brilliant surgeon, Dr. Peter McKenzie treated him with an experimental drug and the “miracle cure” saw Stevie Chalmers not only survive but go on to become a famous footballer for Celtic as one of the famed “Lisbon Lions” which became the first British team to win the European Cup in 1967. Indeed, Chalmers scored the winning goal, with some added irony being that Dr. McKenzie was an avid Rangers fan.

Joe Biden and Stevie Chalmers had one thing in common; both really lovely, decent men. Yet fate dealt them different hands.

Why, every single day, do we see some people have good fortune while others seem to have burden after burden to deal with? How many times have you wondered why bad things seem to happen to good people, while evil people seem to prosper?

I often think of my career as a journalist when I covered the effect on the lives of many local people of tragedy on our roads, of families affected by suicide, of young and old taken by cancer, of many other tough times that people have gone through time and time again.

I remember thinking at times, how many hits does that person have to take?

A nurse once said to me, if everyone could lay their troubles on the table for us all to view, you might just pick your own back up again.

And I think of those victims of the Troubles in this country which was torn apart by violence for decades. The pain that I saw of people so bereaved was the same, regardless of creed, class or political affiliation. Indeed, why Lyra McKee, a bright, vibrant intelligent young woman which our society can ill do without.

Even today across the world, the death and destruction of people day and daily is heartbreaking, be they Christian, Muslim, other faiths and none.

Why, why? Or why not?

When I was a young boy, I remember one evening our family visiting the house of a friend of my father; this friend and my dad, both born-again Christians, had a really heavy and interesting conversation about the subject of predestination.

That’s the theory that people have no control over events in their lives because these things are decided in advance by God or fate.

It’s a deep subject and would, I suppose, explain the notion that tragedy and suffering on earth are not the result being punished for something we’ve done.

This week, as Ballinamallard United prepare for their big day in the Irish Cup final, I’ve been thinking of two close friends and people whom I admire enormously. One has passed away in a road accident, one survived a separate, serious road accident.

It’s 20 years ago this year since the late Greg Turley passed away and I still vividly remember the shock of receiving the phone call. He was a great fella, Greg; a fine footballer, an inspirational teacher at St. Michael’s College and a great family man. Don’t ask me why such a fine person was taken far too young because I don’t have any easy answer.

Some years earlier, Harry McConkey was just 15 when he was cycling near his Magheraveely home and was hit by a vehicle. He lay on the road very seriously injured; as fate would have it, the first man on the scene had some medical training and realised that the teenager should not be moved even an inch.

By keeping him perfectly still, the man saved his life as doctors later said that he was millimetres from death and would certainly have died if moved.

Harry recovered and this week quipped to me “I’m lucky to be alive never mind in an Irish Cup final.”

Harry has lived a full and active life with his long service to football and to others, including the special needs children that he taught and loved so much, so I hope and pray that he gets his reward on Saturday.

But whatever is meant to be, will be.

It’s a football match. It means so much, but it’s a football match. Not that such perspective will lessen the nerves of all concerned on Saturday!

Still, in the wider picture, so many people have so much adversity to overcome in their lives.

How do you cope with yours?

I often cling to my faith, and think of quotations. The Psalmist says: “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

Or Philippians: “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”

Or indeed, from the hymn: When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.”

That’s me, of course. Life is tough, life is unfair and sometimes there doesn’t seem to be and end of the bad run in sight.

But whether it’s your God, or a higher power you believe in, or your own personal inner strength and resilience, take heart and know that in the words of the song “Everybody hurts sometimes” and we should all show some compassion and look out for each other.