When something bad happens, people like to know where it happened. They want to know how close it hit to them. They want to know if it’s going to affect them.
If your house is robbed and you’re part of the neighborhood watch, they will ask what street you are on. They want to know how close the danger is to them. They want to know if it is going to hit them next.
If someone dies unexpectedly, people will ask “How did she die?” or “How old was she?”or they will wonder out loud if she caused her own early death due to not taking care of herself. They want to know if there’s a possibility that it will happen to them. They want to know if they are at risk for the same thing.
In both cases, they want to know if they should move away from the danger.
No matter what you do, you will get sick, and you might get robbed. Asking how close it is to you only insults the other person and says “You are not like me. I’m special.” It implies that you think that you are above the other person – more blessed.
The phrase “There but for the grace of God go I” is especially insulting. If there is a tornado that goes through your neighborhood and your house is intact and half your neighbor’s houses are flattened, it doesn’t mean that God loves you more. It doesn’t mean that God gives more grace to you and withdraws it from them. It doesn’t mean that they did something bad to deserve it.
Bad things happen to people, period. Not just bad people. What matters afterwards is how we deal with it.
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”
– John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, “Meditation XVII”