I had a post scheduled for today on a Fun Jar that you can make and use with your own kids. It’s going to have to wait because there is something else on my heart right now.
Yesterday afternoon, while I rocked Allie to sleep in the semi dark of her bedroom, the news that Joe Paterno was a key player in the cover-up of Jerry Sandusky’s heinous crimes slowly permeated my brain. I was disappointed and confused and left wondering how an honest and decent man well known for hard work, high standards, and unfailing integrity failed so miserably.
While I rocked my baby, full of life and promise, I wanted to hear Joe Paterno himself explain how he prioritized the Penn State football program over the danger of a child rapist. I wanted him to speak up for himself, to tell me how much he knew or didn’t know and how he lived with his decision to look the other way.
I can almost – but not really – get my mind around it.
I imagine that he carefully weighed the health of his career, his life’s work measured in Nittany Lion Club donations and ticket sales but also in a world class university and in thousands of successful, educated former football players all over the world, and he decided that all that good was more important than this little bad.
I guess he weighed all he could do in the lives of so many new young football players and decided that it was more important than the harm his friend was doing in the lives of a handful of kids.
I want to give him the benefit of the doubt. I want to believe that he agonized over this, but I just can’t understand how he decided that the many needed him more.
And then I had an epiphany.
It doesn’t matter what his reasoning was. The only thing that really matters is his silence.
Joe Paterno’s silence let a rapist continue to brutalize children.
His silence made a dozen boys believe that they didn’t matter, that their well-being was irrelevant, that no one cared.
His silence was as good as his approval.
I looked at my sleeping baby, the one who believes the world is a safe place, full of good people, and I was overwhelmed by disappointment.
He knew the truth. He knew that he had known all along.
In the end, he said that he wished he’d done more. Does repentance make any difference?
I’ve had trouble lately. I’ve been struggling to make sense of the senseless, to find meaning in the random. All I’ve come up with is that our world is broken and in desperate need of a Savior.
Joe Paterno was neither good nor bad. He was a human being, wonderful and flawed.
He was just a man, and men make mistakes.
Lost in my thoughts, I got up and put Allie in her crib, no closer to understanding than I’d been before.
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