A few weeks ago as I was enjoying a walk around my neighborhood, I heard intense screaming and yelling coming from one of the homes. The screaming was so loud that I clearly heard it from the street. My family and I routinely take evening walks and I had never heard yelling and screaming anything like this in our neighborhood. Something was happening inside of that house.
My first thought was to just keep staring straight forward, up the street. I did not even look towards the house. – I didn’t want to be a nosy neighbor. I then thought to myself that I needed to tell my children to stay away from that part of the neighborhood for the evening, -just to be safe. BUT, the yelling and screaming troubled me. It continued and was really loud. I also thought that I had heard some “thumps” coming from the home as well; I wondered what the thumps were. As I attempted to continue my stroll, I wrestled with rather or not to do something. Many questions ran through my mind: Was there some type of violence happening in that house? Was someone being hurt? Was an innocent person being taken advantage of? Or, was I just overreacting and needed to just “mind my own business?”
There are times in our lives where we are faced with dilemmas like this one. And it seems that, in the moment, there is no clear answer. No one wants to be the nosey neighbor, busy-body or the tattle tale. I sure don’t want to be. So, most of the time we look straight ahead, with our blinders on, and move forward. We just say, “It is none of my business.” After all, that is the easiest, simplest, safest and least painful path to take –well, at least for us.
The problem with looking the other way is that, by our own lack of action, we potentially allow others to get hurt. You and I can facilitate the “hurt” and “victimization” of “others,” when we refuse to take action. Our lack of action might be the easiest thing to do at the time, but it is only the easiest thing for us. It is only safe for us. It is only less painful for us. Our choice to take the path of least resistance could potentially permit the construction of mountains of pain and grief for others.
I have never been a huge follower of Penn State or Joe Paterno. Of course, I knew of the school and the coach -and I thought that Joe Paterno’s career was remarkable. But, I never had a reason to follow either one closely. When the Sandusky story broke, I was drawn to read about it because my heart went out to the victims AND because I wondered, “How could something like this happen on such a large stage?” I couldn’t help but wonder, “If the allegations are true, how could Sandusky have gotten away with this for so long?” As we see the true story unfold, we are beginning to be able to answer those questions. And one of the key answers is: there are bad people in this world and horrible things can happen when “good” people like you and me live life with blinders on and just look the other way.
I do not want to be a nosey neighbor, a busy-body or a tattle tale. But, I have made a decision to do my best to protect the weak and to speak out when I see wrong being done to others around me. In short, I have taken my blinders off. Some might think that the blog posts that I have written in the past are too critical of the Church or of events from my past. I am not bitter; I am not seeking revenge. I really do not have an agenda –other than to share my experiences with the hopes that others can learn from them, protect themselves from unsafe situations and grow closer to God in the process.
There is a lot that I could say about the Sandusky, Joe Peterno and the Penn State situation. There are a lot of parallels that I could point out in regards to spiritual abuse: thoughts about how we protect “a man” because we think he is someone who is exceptional, thoughts about how we protect “an institution” because we want to be a part of something bigger than us, thoughts about how we protect “a legacy” and thoughts about how “we” allow people to be victimized as “we” protect these things. I could remark about how an oblong piece of leather became more important than young boys. I could expound on how the roar of the crowd on Saturday afternoons drowned out the cries of various young men. I could attempt to rationalize how all the “good” people who knew wrong things were happening could possibly just keep their mouths shut. And yes, I could point out other things but wisdom dictates that I refrain from that line of thought. –Well, at least in this post.
That evening I decided to not keep my mouth shut. I decided to take the risk of being called a tattle tale or a nosey neighbor. I called 911 and explained to the dispatcher what I heard. They sent a patrol car out to check on everyone in the home. I never found out what was actually happening in the house that day. All we know is that the yelling, screaming and thumping stopped. –That outcome was enough to satisfy me –and my conscience.
I pray that the next time we are confronted with similar situations; we will all be brave enough –and wise enough, to take the proper actions.