Dennis Wallace was one of those unusual forces for good in our world.
The eulogies at his funeral service last week illustrated that point over and over.
Dennis wasn't just a Deputy Sheriff, he was an investor in people's lives.
Wallace had become a Christian while a junior in high school. It was apparent in the way he lived his life, that he wanted to be like Jesus Christ, who himself stressed love and service to others.
Hughson didn't have a soccer league so Dennis started one, because he saw how soccer benefitted the lives of his nieces and nephews. He gave up his time to raise funds to better Hughson and Stanislaus County.
Family friend George Carr explained how Dennis would go out of his way to counsel kids when he saw they were doing wrong, and never left with hard feelings. He cared about kids. You can't fake caring with kids.
The world could use more people like Dennis Wallace. It's almost like every once in a while God takes an exceptional person and allows a really terrible thing happen to them. We then hear about their extraordinary actions when it's time to say goodbye, a reminder of what's good and true in life.
Life has its heroes. It also has its losers. Losers like David Machado inflicting misery on others out of their own wretched dysfunction, their own evil.
Those who were acquainted with Machado say he was in a downward spiral and that his life was in a great despair. He was apparently on drugs, lost his job and family and had absolutely nothing to live for. He was into stealing cars like the one he was driving the moment Deputy Wallace pulled him over at Fox Grove Fishing Access near Hughson. Somehow Machado managed to get a gun to Wallace's head before firing twice. He then fled the scene and carjacked a motorist in Keyes. He took that car and fled to Tulare County where an attempted theft of a woman's car keys drew more attention to him.
The shooting, as incomprehensible as it is, prompts more questions than answers. It will be a long time before authorities give us any information as to the circumstances behind the tragedy. The accused cop killer doesn't seem very intelligent in desiring to represent himself in court. Maybe he's mentally deranged. For somebody who told the judge in the courtroom that "there's no f------ point to drag it out," he shouldn't have entered a not guilty plea.
A number of those who gathered at the corner of Hatch and Mitchell on Tuesday last week to watch the hearse carrying Wallace's body through Ceres - where Wallace was born - shared with me utter contempt for the sorry soul who caused all of this sorrow. I struck up a conversation with one official who was waiting for the procession. He privately told me that it was too bad that Machado didn't cause the police in Lindsey to shoot and kill him to spare us a long trial and then incarcerate him for the rest of his natural days on the taxpayer's dime. I get his sentiment but we do have a system that has to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are like me, you often wonder how it is that a single classroom can produce stellar individuals who go onto do great things while others go sideways and cause nothing but grief. I remember how one classmate of mine, Ronnie Montoya, was not even out of high school and breaking into a pharmacy. He was arrested and denied the burglary even though police found glass particles clinging to his pants.
My late grandmother used to have a cartoon hanging on her refrigerator. It was a simple cartoon drawing of an ashamed looking big-eyed child looking up with folded hands covering most of his face. It was captioned, "I know I'm somebody 'cause God don't make no junk!!" Forgiving the double-negatives, God truly is not in the business of making "junk" but, boy, do some people make total junk of their lives.
When the world goes haywire, like it did the serene morning of the awful deed done to Deputy Wallace at a place of beauty - along a tranquil river - we often ask, what in the hell is the matter with some people? The very answer is contained in our question - hell.
Most of us heartily believe in the concept of evil when we see it. It's an act of evil when innocent blood is shed, whether it be a school campus shooting, an ISIS beheading or flying a plane into a building.
You can believe in God and the Bible or not. That's your business but you really don't want to choose not. Without getting preachy, there is plenty of warning about the unseen enemy of mankind. So as we ask "what in the hell is the matter with people?," an answer is found in John 10:10. Jesus pointblank identifies the thief as the one who "comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Specifically he calls the enemy Satan, but he goes by other names, too, like Lucifer or Beelzebub.
It can certainly be argued that Dennis Wallace followed in the steps of the one who came to bring life; that the life of David Machado is a prime example of the one who came to kill and steal and destroy. Or more aptly, one who was influenced by the Evil One. As a result, the lives of both Dennis Wallace and David Machado have been destroyed, in different ways.
Older people often observe how our education system has really "dumbed down." Our kids are coming out of school without knowing anything about American history and we're seeing a whole generation thinking the world owes them everything - including a president after failing to muster enough Electoral College votes. If you think our kids are failing to be taught the way the country's government works, consider how utterly ignorant they are about spiritual matters. The same society that preaches tolerance seems to have totally skipped over the very concept of God, and of evil, of the principle of law and grace. There is little understanding that all have fallen short of God's standard; that there are consequences for bad actions; that a country that distances itself from God will become exactly what it's destined to become - a dark place where the love of many grows cold.
We have a lot of people running loose who think it is okay to kill cops. They've bought into big lies. They've listened to a media that seems counterintuitive to American values. Comedian Tim Allen reflected on the lies of mainstream media when he recently spoke to Fox News about his support of Donald Trump. Allen wondered where the notion came about that Donald Trump is an enemy of gay Americans. He noted, very accurately, "Whoever said that? Didn't he wave the LBGT flag at the convention? ... I feel like we're playing that game that I played as a kid, Telephone." To help Allen complete his thought, in other words, if a lie is repeated enough, people will believe it without questioning it. Be very wary of the person who, when asked to defend their claims, cannot come up with an intelligent defense. Likewise, the media has beat to death this constant narrative that anytime a black person is killed by a police officer is because of racial motivation, and therefore the answer is to police are the enemy and need to be killed. It is a lie straight out of pit of hell itself.
Even scarier are the lies some people believe about themselves. David Machado, we are told, believed he had nothing to live for. More aptly it seems he believed that he was the only one who mattered. It's too bad because I've seen and heard from lots of people who have turned their lives around after being transformed by God.
We live in an age when Facebook and other social media are rife with fake news sites with an increasingly gullible younger set, according to a Stanford University study. That's troublesome given that young people become voters and help form societal direction.
The world is a complicated place. It can be a beautiful place. It can also be a very ugly place. There are truths and lies competing for equal attention. But there is a guarantee found in John that reads the "truth will set us free." If that's true - and I believe it is - then things that aren't true place us under bondage.
Each of us needs to earnestly search for the truth and test it.
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.