Our dark side has two sides

Our Dark Side Has Two Sides

Recently a fifteen-year-old girl was savagely beaten and raped on a schoolyard in Northern California while twenty schoolmates watched. A few of the boys participated in the violence but most were passive spectators, too scared to confront the perpetrators.

I think it’s fair to say that al least a handful of the “perps” will be caught and punished for their crime. I doubt that any of the bystanders will be sentenced, unless that sentencing takes place deep in their own hearts, where they have to live with their cowardice.

We speak a lot of our dark side these days, mostly referring to violent outbursts of temper or hatred towards other human beings. Whether it’s the rape of a single girl in California or the rape of thousands of women in the Sudan, we condemn these acts of violence and wring our hands over these obvious and highly visible examples of evil.

But our dark side rears itself in the gang of young people in California who stood by and let this terrible crime happen before their eyes. I thought of Edmund Burke’s famous observation, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” The dark side of people shows itself in big things, like avoiding life-time commitments or in small things like standing by and pretending to laugh at someone’s racial slur or sexist joke.

Years ago as an 11 year old boy, I was walking my best friend Bob back from school when we noticed a group of tough kids approach us. They had a grudge against my

Buddy for some slight, imagined or real. Outnumbered, I said to Bob, “C’mon let’s get out of here.” “Go ahead,” he replied. “You go. This is my fight.” To my shame, I turned and ran

Nothing terrible happened to my pal. In those days kids didn’t go around with guns or knives. Bob showed up the next day at school with a couple of bruises and a cut lip. Still, I avoided him for the next couple of days because I knew I had failed him. but to this day, the memory of that boyhood experience bothers me. I didn’t know squat about my “shadow side” when I was eleven, But there it was.

People pleasers (like myself) do not have to look far for this more subtle type of dark side. We let ourselves be carried away by the winds of human respect or fear of confrontation. We worry too much what others will think of us instead of standing up for what is right. We say “yes” when we know we should be saying “no.” It’s the softer side of our shadow and can do as much harm as strident acts of violence.

Growing up Catholic I was recalling recently the words we uttered in our act of contrition after confession, “God forgive me for what I have done and what I have failed to do ” That’s just another way of acknowledging our dark side is two-sided. I can only hope the spectators watching an innocent little girl being raped will take that to heart.

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Are you gonna watch me?

“Are You Gonna Watch Me?

I was taking “Lori,” one of our Village kids to her soccer game on Saturday when she asked me. Grandpa Hank, are you staying to watch me?” Lori is a quiet ten year old and normally doesn’t ask a lot of questions but this one, I could sense, was important to her. She wanted me to be more than a pick-up and take-home chauffeuring service. This little ten year old, separated from any parent or other relative wanted someone down on the field cheering her on. She needed to have “family” watching her. Needless to say, I was delighted to be able to fill that role for her.

I have also been a “watcher” for “Shauna” who wants someone to see her doing back-flips in gymnastics class, “Henry” a linebacker for his team in the PAL football league, and several kids doing their aikido moves at a martial arts class.

I kind of like this part of my “job” as a Village grandpa. I believe that participation in sports can play a major role in helping kids to grow and develop. So anything I can do to support them, even if it’s just planting my butt in the stands and watching them, is important.

When my own kids were growing up I recall showing up for all my son’s Little League games. Like an old time Catholic who wouldn’t dream of missing Mass on Sunday, I made sure I was in the bleachers for his games. At the time I wondered if he even noticed but years later, Sean, now a man in his 30’s called me on the phone one day. He said “Dad I was just thinking the other day how you always showed up for my baseball games. I want to say thanks.” Wow! There are father-son moments that happen in life too deep for words. That was one of those moments.

So I’ll continue to show up to watch our kids whether it be at school plays or basketball games or soccer. I know I’m not mom or dad or even their “real” grandpa but at least they have someone there to give them a hug or a pat on the back and say “Hey, you did great.”