This story isn’t about me and I hate using “I.” But let’s give it a try.
In high school, I volunteered at Wordplay Cincinnati, a tutoring center. My resume says I “tutored kids in reading and writing, along with helping them develop creative writing skills.”
I read a lot of Dr. Seuss.
One boy who came in was named Charles. He was 5 years old and his mother was deaf. She brought him in so he would have the experience of being read to.
Charles and I read through every word of “Hop on Pop.”
I hate to admit that I haven’t thought about Charles much since.
When I came home this weekend, I asked my family if they had heard about Tyre King, a 13-year-old boy shot and killed by a Columbus Division of Police officer. Reports say King robbed a man, and police shot when King reached for a gun at his waistband. The gun was later determined to be a BB gun. When I asked my family about all this, I remembered Charles’ smile when he got a phrase right in “Hop on Pop.”
“All. Tall. We all are tall.”
This story is not about me.
I read a Facebook post from Kelly Greenzalis, a volunteer with City Year, a youth mentor program in Columbus City Schools, who worked with Tyre King. She said Tyre read books like “The Giver” and “The Outsiders” and loved being called on to read aloud. He would make up raps based on vocabulary words, she said. I wondered if now-9-year-old Charles was up to similar antics. I feared Charles would reach the same fate.
“All. Small. We all are small.”
My family, with all the good intentions in the world, gave suggestions on how this could have been avoided. Advice included he shouldn’t have had a gun, should know guns are not to be played with, shouldn’t have been robbing someone, should have respected the police officers. This country, for some reason, no longer respects police officers, they said.
“All. Fall. Fall off the wall.”
But this story isn’t about me. This story isn’t about my family members.
I don’t know and they don’t know what young Tyre and those like him go through each day. We don’t know what culture he grew up in, one where people may feel they need a gun to protect themselves. We don’t know what it’s like to feel like America’s finest treats me and people like me as an exception. We don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer. We don’t know what it’s like to suit up every day, putting it all on the line for others.
“Day. Play. We play all day. Night. Fight. We fight all night.”
I don’t know what it’s like to be like Charles or Tyre or Tamir or Trayvon, and I’m not going to pretend that I do. I don’t have an answer that will put this all into perspective and all make sense. I’m not the one profound blogger/columnist/person-with-a-keyboard who can tie it all into a bow.
This story is not about me.
As I told my family between tears, I just think it’s really sad.
And I think we can do more.