Too Many Wimps, Not Enough Warriors

Sometimes it takes awhile to get inspired to write a post and sometimes a topic just keeps bugging me until I do something about it. One that has been knocking on my door a lot lately is the topic of doing the right thing when you view an injustice or crime or something just plain wrong, especially when it involves a child. Do you stop it from happening? Do you call police? If it involves bad parenting, do you say something to the parent? If you catch the child doing wrong out of sight of the parent, do you let the parent know later? What do we teach our children about “doing the right thing” and how do we act ourselves?

Of course, the highly publicized Penn State/Jerry Sandusky case brings up some of those questions. After assistant football coach Mike McQueary witnessed Sandusky allegedly committing child sexual abuse, he responded in what I would call a wimpy (not to mention, I think in some states, criminal) way– he waited a day, then told a supervisor about it and then did nothing further, kind of like, “Well, this could really hurt the football program and I really didn’t want to tell on my friend Jerry but I told someone, so thank goodness it’s not my problem anymore.”

Headlines next told of former Syracuse assistant basketball coach Bernie Fine, who’s been accused of abusing young ball boys in the 80s.  Audio recordings have surfaced that reveal his wife, Laurie, knew about the abuse, some of which allegedly took place in her home, and did nothing to stop it.  Evidently she told one of the victims that she probably would have done something to stop it if he’d been a girl.  Wow, I bet that brought him comfort.

Then this morning on the radio, I heard a news report about a four-year-old local boy who wandered away from his private school and got on a city bus, rode around awhile, then got off at a random spot.  No one, not even the bus driver, asked him why he was alone or where his parents were, except for one rider who exited the bus at the same time, asked him a few questions, and called police, keeping him from crossing a dangerous, busy street.  While his school is apologizing for its lack of supervision, Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) is defending its bus driver, saying, “There are no age restrictions” on who can ride a bus alone.  Are you kidding me? Does that mean a two-year-old or even a baby can just crawl up the bus stairs and take a joyride anytime he/she wants without the driver doing anything about it? A horrible response from the transit system, as well as a horrible lack of concern by the passengers and bus driver, but I guess that’s just the norm these days, huh?

What ever happened to “It Takes A Village to Raise a Child”? Shouldn’t we all do the right thing and care about not just our own children, but about all children?

Well, many of us have stories of “doing the right thing” when it just doesn’t work out quite like we’d expected.  Friends have told me about getting yelled at by parents they didn’t know when they’ve told them their child was hitting another at a playground. I once had a mom not believe me when I phoned to tell her that her 4th grade daughter had somehow gotten around our online parental controls and we’d caught her looking at pornographic websites on our home computer (“My child hardly knows how to work a computer,” she said, “and if she did this, it’s the school’s fault because it must have been learned on their computers!!”) and she was still not quite believing it when the child admitted to the principal that she learned about the websites from a boy, her next-door neighbor (“Well,” the parent told me later, “my daughter said that your daughter begged her to go to those sites.”).  

I will never forget reading, several years ago, about a local pharmacist who was taking part in a health fair at a local hospital.  His displays kept getting touched and jostled by a disabled and hyperactive child who was at the fair with her mom.  He’d told the child to stop and then said something to the mom about watching her child.  The mom went home and told her husband, who came to the fair, confronted the pharmacist, and proceeded to beat him up, kicking him viciously in the stomach, the head, everywhere,  while a crowd watched and did nothing to stop the attack. The pharmacist later died of complications from his injuries.

Should he have just kept quiet and said nothing to the child’s mother? And what about that crowd of onlookers (who no doubt would have been happily capturing the incident on their cell phones had cell phones been around at the time)? I’d like to think I’d have bravely stepped forward to scream at the kicker, risk life and limb to pull him off the victim. But would I?

While I’ve never been in a situation like that, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve wimped out and taken the “path of least discomfort”. I once waited several months, until the schoolyear was almost over and other parents had started coming forward, to report the behavior of a jr. high teacher who was routinely walking out of class and leaving the classroom unattended for long periods of time, telling the students to just ask each other if they had questions about their work, both during regular classtime and tutoring sessions.  The principal and counselor told me they wished I hadn’t waited so long.  But… she was an award-winning teacher…  and the kids said they felt sorry for her because they’d seen her cry a lot and they thought she was having personal problems…  and I kept hoping things would get better. I “just didn’t want to cause trouble”…

North Dallas writer and mom Ruth Ann Janson wrote in a Dallas Morning News column recently that
when parents don’t step forward to confront other adults about how they’re treating children or how their children are behaving, that it’s similar to bowing to peer pressure, and similar to not standing up for someone who’s being bullied– two things we tell our children NOT to do.  “When parents choose not to lead by example in these areas, they are sending their child a clear message, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’,” she writes.  She talks about the many times we’ve probably seen a child in a car and not wearing a seatbelt, yet to avoid conflict, nothing is said to the driver, even though not having a child in a seatbelt is illegal, not to mention dangerous.  I could definitely see me not saying anything in that same situation, whether I knew the driver or not, thinking, “That’s their child, that’s their business.” 

Yet, is it? Isn’t this non-confrontational, “circle the wagons and take care of only my own” attitude that pervades our society how we eventually get tragedies like that at Penn State? 

If there’s one good thing that can come out of all these crazy headlines, it’s that maybe they will cause us all to take stock of our values and become more of a culture of courage.  Do we show it enough in ourselves? Do we keep persevering even when our courage isn’t rewarded? And do we foster and reward it in others, especially our children? Out of all the qualities the Oz travelers requested from the Wizard, courage may just be the most important. 

114 thoughts on “Too Many Wimps, Not Enough Warriors”

  1. I finally spoke up on a long flight in first class, after a terrible mother kept yelling at her elementary school aged boys. No,she packed nothing for them to do while the plane sat on the tarmac for an hour, then we had to exit the plane for repairs. I hoped they’d get on another flight, but hours later as we reboarded our newly repaired airplane, there she was with her husband and sons. I mean, who yells in an airplane ever?? After aother couple of hours, I couldn’t take it anymore and loudly said to my seatmate, “can you believe that woman yelling at her kids? I didn’t fly first to hear that!” BUT, what I wish I would have said, “No one should treat any child like that.” I gave her mean looks when she went to the bathroom and seethed at them when we exited the plane after landing. Interestingly, she acted much better after being called out! Imagine what she is like at home if she treats her kids horribly in first class in close proximity to strangers!

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