Yesterday several people sent me a link to this story (click here). It’s the story of a teenage autistic XC runner who was screamed at shoved to the ground during a XC meet here in Rochester. Read the full story.
Upon first reading it, my blood boiled. No charges? Dropped charges? I was angry. Like everyone else I wanted the man brought to “justice”. I wanted him to be held accountable. I wanted justice for this kid. I understand what it’s like to be the parent of a kid on the spectrum. I know all too well how ostracized these kids feel to begin with. This world is not a kind place. As a parent, you have to fight tooth and nail for every service they receive. If they receive occupational therapy you have to fight to keep it. If their academic placement isn’t a good fit you have to fight the entire school district to get it right.
So when kids like this find places and activities they love to do….. you cherish it. You are extra grateful for it. You protect it with everything you have.
This young runner quit the team, the one he’s been on for three years due to this incident.
This young runner can’t speak for himself and relies on adults to guide him. His mother clearly does an incredible job helping to guide him. So many of us are angered for this mother and son for so many reasons. People are calling it racist, a hate crime, harassment. People wanted to involve the media, and somehow bring the man who did this…. to some kind of social justice. Heck, people even blamed Trump.
A friend sent me this message, as I didn’t understand why charges weren’t followed through on:
It has to do with the wording of the NYS law on the subject. A harassment complaint has to be attested to and signed by the actual victim to make it able to be the source for an arrest or conviction. In the case of a nonverbal and noncommunicative individual there is literally no way for them to complete the charge. A harassment charge basically requires the victim to specifically state that they felt harassed. An assault charge requires that the person be hurt (to some surprisingly specific definitions of injury) to be considered eligible for the charge. If the boy was physically okay after the altercation, then it doesn’t meet the criteria for assault. Assault can be proven in a nonverbal person, but requires the corroboration of witnesses and medical records. If he wasn’t examined by a medical professional and/or there is no documentation- the cops have nothing that they can use. Charging him with a hate crime would require intent to perform a hate crime on the part of the guy who did it and he already says he did it because he thought (wrongly and stupidly) that he was defending his wife and their property. And thus the law fails to help in this situation.
Then another friend said this:
There’s nothing that makes what happened okay but that last thing we want to do it stoop to his level and start a riot or incite violence against him. Then we are truly no better.
Petition, letter etc. directly to our civil leaders. Demonizing him in the media could potentially lead to far worse. We’ve become a society of extremes.
Trust me, I’m angry, very angry and want justice for this child. What I don’t want is vengeance. Vengeance solves nothing and makes us no better.
I guess in all this rambling I’m trying to say, I don’t trust that everyone can respond to this with a level head focused on education and justice.
This all made me think… wait… wait…. wait….. what am I doing here? I am jumping on the bandwagon of being the judge and the jury of a situation I am not involved in, and not completely versed in. I am jumping on the bandwagon of … of I don’t even know what…. in this era of out country where everyone is being cruel, becoming divided, righteous…. and that’s not me.
It’s not our job to crucify the man who did this. I have to leave that up to the people who deal with the law. And my friend is right, vengeance against this man is not the answer. We can do better.
What I feel most sadness for…. is that this boy quit running because of this. To me, that’s the biggest tragedy of all. He quit something he clearly loved. He finally found a place. If you know anything about XC running, you know it’s a brotherhood (or sisterhood). This young man….. gosh he needs to know that one person having a really bad day (likely that is an understatement) can not define him, can not define our community, and can never be the end of the story.
What I would like to say to this young runner is this:
Go back to practice. Get your uniform. Lace up your shoes. Run. Race. Compete.
Do not allow the actions of one person be what defines you and what writes your story. YOU and YOU ALONE are the one who gets to do that. Handing in your uniform…. allows people like this to win. We can fight them in a court of law, but where it matters is in the court of life.
Rise up. Stand tall. Embrace the sport that has embraced you. You tell your mom that if you need someone to run with you in meets we will find that for you. We will check out the rules and see what we need to do, but if you come to Rochester again I have this strange feeling that we will have people fighting over who GETS to run with you.
We understand you, you see. We are runners. We know what it’s like to feel that feeling of flying while you run. The air in your lungs, your heart pounding, chasing your own personal finish lines and goals. We know what it’s like to be your fellow runners. In running we are in this together my friend. And we are not one guy in a car on a street, who is having a really bad day (and probably a really bad life).
Some of us know what it is like to be in your shoes. Some of us (me) are the parents of kids on the spectrum, or with some challenges, who truly understand how running has helped complete them. We get it. We understand. We understand you. We are not that guy.
So lace up those shoes my dear. It’s time to get back in the game. Should you ever come to Rochester again you’ll have an army of runners showing up for you. We won’t allow one person to define you either. We promise.
I found myself starting to really get wrapped up in the anger this situation so easily begs for. Getting angry is easy. Demanding justice is easy. We can write letters to whomever we write letters to. We can talk about it on the radio or the TV. But what will it solve? If this man has issues, it won’t solve those issues so we have to trust that those are being handled elsewhere ( I HOPE).
I have made mistakes. Big ones. I have had the GIFT of having people step up and step in to guide me. To tell me I am wrong. To help me find my way. Through my biggest failures and biggest mistakes I have learned my greatest lessons. They are SO painful when they happen. Good GOD do they hurt. But 100% of the times I come out the other side. 100% of the time I have learned from them. 100% of the time I am better for the experience. 100% of the time I grow and I grow a lot.
100% of the time…. as much as I hate to admit this…. I am grateful for their occurrence.
So what if this time….. I wasn’t part of the problem but part of the solution? Right now in our society…. especially right now…. it’s daily attacks on people, lies, scandals, injustice. What if we took a different path, at least this one time?
What if we took our focus off of the man whose actions we are so angry about…. and focused them on encouraging this boy to run again? To be better people ourselves and make sure we continue to watch out for one another and have each others’ backs?
I have to say, this was the most positive discussion I have ever been part of on social media. It was thoughtful and respectful. I am very open to disagreement when done respectfully. As I read through the discussion, my opinions were challenged in a GOOD way. In a way that made me think, made me sort out how I felt about this situation and allowed me to switch directions.
I am not the judge or jury for this man. What I am…. is a runner. An athlete. The mother of a child with special needs who is looking to see how I react to things like this. Anger? Doesn’t help. Vengence? Even worse. But those are two REALLY easy traps to fall into. So easy. Anger is easier than love 100% of the time.
Somehow, we will convince this young man that Rochester is an amazing place to run, and an amazing running community. Need someone to run with your boy becasue you are injured Mom? reach out to me. I will personally find someone, and I will find out what the rules are, and we will make that happen.
One thing is for sure. This young runner just gained an army of runners who support him, who will help him, and who want to see him run again. So let’s get him running.