Once upon a time, a young man grew tall. His Daddy was six foot four, and he could not wait to be taller than his Dad. At six foot, two, and 17 years old, some called him, “Slim”. It was a nickname. Slim. Slim loved sports. He could play football or basketball. He wore glasses, but they broke, and besides, some silly girl and his friends were calling him four-eyes, and one cute girl said he looked better without them. Why bug his stepmom? Dad was busy driving trucks, and while it was hard to see the whiteboard/blackboard, Dad’s girlfriend was not going to take him to get his eyes checked. One night in February, it was raining, but Slim got the munchies. He heard that mixing skittles with Arizona tea and cough syrup made a sipping opiate, but drugs are bad. Marijuana gave him the munchies. Slim enjoyed chatting on the phone with his friend from his old school, in his old neighborhood, Rachel. Rachel did not do marijuana, but she did not judge his twice a week smokes. Sometimes they’d chat all day on the phone about school, family drama, birthday parties and stuff. No, there was no way he was going to ask Dad’s girlfriend to take him to the mall for glasses. He did not want to hear the lecture about being careful. Eyeglasses break. So, he called his Dad and asked to go to the store. If only he had his own car, his own wheels. But, a car, car insurance, gas all cost money. Dad already forked it over for the new white track shoes, and his Mom said it was a race keeping him in jeans as he was growing so fast. Slim cut through a neighborhood and noticed this dude in a truck watching him. Creepy. Since Slim couldn’t see clearly at long distances, he hid and waited for the dude to get closer. The creepy guy got out of his truck and came towards Slim. Still chatting with Rachel, she wondered if the creepy guy was a rapist. And Rachel dared him to punch the guy in the nose. Slim didn’t want this creepy guy to follow him home because he was home alone with his Dad’s girlfriend’s son. So, he waited until the creepy guy got closer and jumped him. Slim knocked the creepy guy down, and started punching him and the creepy guy started yelling! “help!” And when his shirt slid up, Slim saw the gun. But the creepy guy shot up through Slim’s chest and Slim said, “you got me” and fell back. The creepy dude was able to roll free. Come to find out, the creepy guy had called police. The creepy guy was Mr. Z, who thought Slim might be a robber, as Slim was wearing a black hoodie, and slinking around the houses where some burglaries had occurred. Mr. Z cooperated with police, and was handcuffed and taken in for questioning. And his head wounds, and broken nose photographed, and treated. The next day, Mr. Z did a walk through with police and a cameraman and explained what he saw and experienced. Mr. Z was a crime watch captain for his neighborhood. He was not on duty that night, but on his way to Target he noticed Slim in the black hoodie and called it in to police as he had been trained to do. He was waiting for the police to arrive, and checking for a street name and address house number, when Slim jumped him. Slim punched him in the nose, and sat on his chest and repeatedly banged his head into the sidewalk and Mr. Z thought Slim was going to kill him. He did not know Slim. He had never seen him before that night. What if he blacked out and Slim found the gun in his holster? Where was that phone in his jacket pocket? Surely, the police would be here soon? When his shirt and jacket slid up as he tried to get out from under and away from Slim, Mr. Z was afraid Slim had seen the gun, and so he grabbed it first. Mr. Z did not realize he had fired it until Slim fell back and rolled off him. Mr. Z got up and hollered some more for help.
That dark, rainy night in February, it took hours for the police to take notes, for the coriner to come, and the witnesses to give their accounts. Flashing lights and police tape and reports were taken until 2am. Rachel found out two days later that when the phone call ended at 7:17pm, that her friend had died. Slim’s Dad did not miss Slim as he assumed Slim was at a friend’s house. J
Tell our sons that story. For want of eyeglasses…
Did you notice that in telling the story, not once did I mention anyone’s race. It was dark, light rain, and the neighborhood robberies and home invasions had been committed by black “youths” and Mr. Z was concerned that the black-hooded tall person he saw might be one of the perps. But, he merely observed and reported, as neighborhood watch persons are trained to do all over the country. Call in suspicious people, try to get a description, direction which way they are headed, but stay in your vehicle. Slim was tall, in a black hoodie, walking in the dark in the rain, through a neighborhood which had been recently burglarized.
Make the story you tell your sons about the eyeglasses, and how neglect happens sometimes in broken homes, the need of compassion, help…of even a pencil or food if a fellow student comes from a home of high drama. Make it about what a child CAN do: never make fun of someone who needs glasses, food, or help with homework. Bring an extra pencil to share. Lift up. If someone is being a bully, tell an adult. Encourage. And use this opportunity to give your sons permission to defend himself and his sisters.
In a speech on March 22, 1964, MLK said: “We must learn to live as brothers or perish together as fools.” His niece, Alveda King wrote 7-18-13: “Every human being is part of the one single human race. We are one blood. One race. We are created with a dream inside, and when we are allowed to be born and to live out our God ordained lives, we have a chance to be great.”