June 20, 2014
This morning I woke up to a local story that hurt my heart. I was responding to my son, who had alerted me to the story from halfway around the world, when I was interrupted by a phone call. It was my daughter, halfway across the country, alerting me to the very same story. It wasn’t so much the story that hurt, it was the effect that I knew the story would have on my son that broke my heart.
When I first began teaching, I taught at the same high school in which my two sons attended. The school was rather large (approximately 2,000 students) so I rarely ran into my sons on campus. In other words, I didn’t cramp their style. My oldest son was a member of the cross country team; he was, and is, a gifted long distance runner. The boys cross country coach became a mentor for my son, as my son’s father had long since dropped out of his life.
Although I did an admirable job of raising my children, I knew I could never, would never, be able to teach my sons what is was to be a man. My sons lived with my parents for a few years and my dad was a great teacher and role model for my sons. However, my dad passed away in 2001 when my sons were just 14 and 16. They were only then, beginning to want and need a male role model. I also have five brothers, their uncles, who were in their lives. However, their influence was not on an everyday basis. Subsequently, my older son had his cross country coach.
Coach E took my son under his wing and became the role model my son needed at that time in his life. I do not know if he and my son ever had any heart-to-heart talks, but he was my son’s mentor all the same. Coach E was a teacher in good standing at the high school, he had a likable personality, always smiling and friendly, and he seemed to genuinely like his students. In addition to having him as a coach, my son had him as a teacher his junior year in high school. My son used to tell me that Coach E was always cracking jokes in class, my son liked that, even though the jokes were sometimes aimed at him.
My son was a bit reserved in high school, he was not loud or boisterous. In fact, he let his actions speak for themselves. He wasn’t one to want to stand out in a crowd, but he did want to be recognized for who he was. I believe that Coach E, in part, helped my son gain that self-confidence he was searching for. In addition, Coach E was a role model for perseverance, determination, and acceptance of one’s talents. Unfortunately, all of that was shattered as Coach E took his oh-so-public fall from grace.
On Tuesday, June 17, Coach E, who retired from the school district in May of 2013, was charged with three counts of public sexual indecency. My son’s reaction? He sent me a link to the story with the following words, “this can’t be true…” I could sense his disbelief and disappointment. Unfortunately, yes, it can be true. And here is my answer to him:
Don’t judge Coach E too harshly. He did what he did (allegedly) and I am sure he will get what he deserves. However, that doesn’t negate the fact that he was a positive role model to you and countless other youth. The man you knew and loved was not a lie, remember him as such. Look on this as a lesson you never have to personally learn, good people do bad things. And again, don’t judge too harshly. I say this not to protect Coach E, but to protect you, my son. In your lifetime, you will be treated as you have treated others. And someday, heaven forbid, should you need forgiveness and understanding, you can take comfort in the fact that you were kind and loving, and you never passed judgment on a fellow human being.
The world is a paradox; it is contradictory and inconsistent. And we, its inhabitants, are no different. So why does it always surprise us when our heroes let us down? I wish I knew, I just wish I knew. Peace, ~v.