Getting there

Getting there

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Momentary Lapse

You've probably seen the photo above. It was taken during the riots in Vancouver after the Canucks lost game seven. I'm not going to name the young man as it's been reported all over the web, and I'm still not sure how I feel about this young man's name being released despite him being a juvenile offender. I am sure of one thing, though. When I read the story I was horrified, and I immediately sat my daughter down to read it because it is a cautionary tale of youth, bad decisions, and consequences.

If you've read the story after the young man was identified then you know it's not one of poverty and lack of advantages. The young man is considered an elite athlete, and one who was about to embark on an academic career courtesy of a scholarship awarded due to his sport ability. He was raised in a home with professionals, and lived in a posh Vancouver-area neighbourhood. From all accounts he was a good student, and was about to graduate from high school.

When I saw the story what struck me is how a bad decision - a momentary lapse in judgement - can affect one's entire future. This young man now faces criminal charges. He faces losing the scholarship, perhaps, and has been suspended from his athletic team. He has already faced the censure of his friends, his family, and of the world. He has profoundly disappointed his parents. His entire future, and his relationship with others, is in jeopardy. Even more he can never erase these photos and videos from our internet world - they will be there forever, when he's twenty, and thirty, and seventy. He can never undo what he has done.

When I made my daughter read the story she was very quiet. I explained to her that I wanted her to read it because she has so many advantages, too. As a single child she has the entire focus of her parents' attention and love. She is academically successful, and generally successful in her other pursuits as well. She comes from a home with parents who are financially secure and able to provide her with many material things. What I wanted her to understand was that these advantages can be lost in a heartbeat by simply making a poor decision that "seemed like a good idea at the time". I doubt the young man in the photo above has a long criminal record, or that he is generally speaking a "bad kid". I suspect he's just a kid who made a really lousy decision.

 I also explained to my daughter that those advantages don't mean one can act with impunity, either. The young man above will face the consequences of his actions, and they may be harsh ones to accept - but accept them he must. I look at the young man in this photo and think of how this one act may have changed the trajectory of his life. That's an astonishing thought, really, that one thing we choose to do can change our lives forever. I guess that's why I insisted my daughter read the story. I want her to always think very carefully about her decisions - because, dear friends, she may well be making the one that could change her life and not even realize it. I hope the decisions she makes are ones that change it forever for the better.

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