RICHARDSON: Doing the right thing

February 23, 2014 

“For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light.”

-- Luke 8:17

About a month ago, I received a call from Ray Rover. He was upset. You’ll remember Ray. He runs the “Streets to Success” program at Heritage at Houston in a gymnasium that was new five decades ago. He runs this program for Houston Avenue area children out of his pocket and donations of those who see the kind of work he’s doing.

It started out on a shoestring. Every Wednesday night, children from the neighborhood would come in, play a little basketball, catch a meal and a word from speakers from the community. In full disclosure, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to the kids.

It’s grown up a lot since those humble beginnings. Central Georgia Technical College has provided computers and a summer program. My Rotary Club, Mercer University and others have weekly tutoring sessions with boys and girls. The results have been amazing. Their academic achievements tell the story. These kids are on the street to success.

So why was Ray upset? Showing children the straight and narrow is made harder when adults -- who are supposed to be responsible -- don’t do the right thing.

On Jan. 16, Ray took his boys, who play in a church youth basketball league, to play at an east Macon church gym. A young man who had dropped out of the program and school wanted to play. That was a nonstarter with Ray. If you’re not in school, you can’t play. If you don’t attend the tutoring sessions, you can’t play. The league has requirements for school attendance as well.

Lo and behold, when they arrived at the gym, who do they see in the opposing team’s uniform? Right. Ray told the coach, but he allowed the kid to play anyway. Ray’s kids are a hardscrabble lot. They’ve seen plenty that doesn’t make sense.

Ray’s team won the game and as they were leaving the gym, there was a bit of a confrontation between his players and the opposing team. One of Ray’s coaches separated them before things could escalate, but then an adult female associated with the opposing team comes screaming “I’ll lock their a--es up.”

The coach reminded her that they were the adults and needed to set an example, but she continued to scream. She identified herself as a police officer (later as a military police officer). A young man with dreads who had been in the gym appeared, according to the coach’s written description of the event, brandishing a gun. He cocked the gun and yelled, “What y’all going to do now?” Everybody scattered. The Heritage boys headed for their van. One, however, was so scared that he ran to a convenience store down the street.

The assailant tapped the pistol grip on the van’s window and fired the weapon in the air. He fired again and ran. One of the coaches for the opposing team is a Bibb County deputy. He came out of the gym with his gun drawn.

What’s baffling is, there was no written report for weeks. According to Sheriff David Davis, an internal investigation was held only after he was personally notified. The deputy was reprimanded for not calling an on-duty deputy. Still, there is a young man on the streets, and I’m pretty sure someone knows his identity. He’s walking around with a weapon and is unafraid to use it. The church league told Ray to let it go and stop making such a fuss.

They don’t know Ray, or their Bible or have a sense of right and wrong. The reason we have armed young people roaming our streets is because “responsible” adults haven’t done their duty to hold them accountable.

They’ve been allowed to slide until they slip into a jail cell.

Ray is as disappointed as I’ve ever seen him. Not at his kids, not even at the assailant, although I’m sure there’s disappointment there as well, but at the adults who want to hold everyone else accountable except themselves.

Charles E. Richardson is The Telegraph’s editorial page editor. He can be reached at 478-744-4342 or via email at crichardson@macon.com. Tweet @crichard1020.

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