Monday, July 23, 2012

Penn State and Our Family

It is strange to watch Penn State University, Joe Paterno and Happy Valley suddenly be the leading story in every newscast. After all, State College was our home for the past 5 years, Grant is a Penn State alumni and we sat in Beaver Stadium and cheered on the Lions many times in our years there.

Do I even need the disclaimer that I am not in favor of protecting child molesters, covering up years of abuse or denying now grown up boys and their families the opportunity to heal and not cause further pain? I understand that no one can tell a victim of abuse how and why they should process what happened to them.

I feel like a simple answer to what PSU, State College and even the NCAA should do in response to the information they now possess should be to let the boys who have come forward and bravely told the world what happened to them decide what to do. If the statue of JoPa causes them pain, take it down. If fines and sanctions on the PSU football program makes them feel in some way like justice has been done, impose them. If taking away the wins from a period of time when Paterno was the coach takes away an honor from a man who they believe could have saved them and did not, then void them.

I know that Penn State can't do nothing. In October I felt like the firing of so many people including the university president, Paterno himself and essentially anyone who could be linked in any way to Sandusky was reactionary and too hasty. I remember thinking that more lives shouldn't be ruined before all the information came out. And I remember thinking that the people I felt most sorrow for was not a football coach, a president or even a student body. I was broken hearted that so many boys had lived their entire lives in silence. There is a reason child molesters are not safe in prison- there is a universal understanding that children are sacred. We as a society protect them, and those that don't are damned.

And then in November, Paterno died. And I felt terrible for Sue Paterno, Joe's wife. From what I knew of her, she was a lovely woman who handled the months after her husband was fired with grace. And I still feel sorrow for her and desperately hope that her children are protecting her from the media. Because my guess would be that she was blindsided by all of this, and all she knows is that the world now hates the man that she spent 50 years loving.

Now that the report has come out exposing all the things that Paterno knew and did nothing about, I feel heavy and resigned. And if I feel that way as an alumni wife, I cannot fathom what PSU students, football players past and present, friends of the Paternos, etc etc are going through. I have dear friends who work as campus ministers in State College and I am in constant prayer for them as they hold hands with students still at Penn State.

And all those hateful, hateful internets blogs, tweets, comments, facebook posts that so freely pass judgement on whoever they are angry at that day, do nothing to bring healing. And healing must come. Joe Paterno is dead. Jerry Sandusky is sentenced. Penn State and the NCAA have more decisions to make, but those will eventually be made as well and life will go on. It feels good to be angry, and everyone should feel anger about the fact that children were molested and people knew and did nothing. But to feel like the world needs to know what you think should happen to Sandusky in prison is not anger- it is revenge. Please stop.

The question is not how to adequately fulfill the world's expectations of "enough" retribution for Paterno, the football program and Penn State. There will never be enough to make what happened go away. It will take time, patience and grace from those strong enough to offer it. I don't know what would be helpful for those boys to begin to heal. But I do know that love and courage from Godly people has worked to change the world before, and it can be done for Penn State too.

My dear friends at RUF- I love you and am so glad you have Alex and Becki to walk alongside you right now. I am so sorry you are going through this and pray that healing and reconciliation comes to Penn State and Happy Valley.


  1. This was beautifully written and I absolutely see and understand your point entirely. But I guess that your view is colored by the many people who are a part of Penn State that had nothing to do with the scandal... And my view is simply focused on those who did nothing to stop what happened and so I guess that the taking down of a statue does bring healing, to me at least, in some small way. It isn't just the boys that need to heal, it is a community that believed in something that turned out to be tainted in a most horrendous way and nobody would ever be able to look at that statue again without all of that coming to mind first and foremost. The man, Paterno, was lauded for decades and the vitriol against him in the short time since he was found out still doesn't seem like enough to me. Death was an easy escape. He never explained himself. And so while I feel bad for his wife I feel a thousand times worse for his victims, who never had 50 plus years to enjoy with a special someone, whose lives will likely be forever tainted by Sandusky's actions and the cover-up that followed in the name of football and what? School pride? Money? What? Cover-ups in the name of athletics have gone on for too long in this country and I'm proud of the NCAA for the steps they took to provide the boys with some measure of justice and comfort and also to set an example to other athletic programs that this kind of thing will not be tolerated. Okay... stepping off soap box now!

  2. Here's a really excellent article that contradicts what I just said and damn... I totally feel where you're coming from... The whole thing is just so terrible:

  3. Good article. I do wonder what our thoughts about this whole thing would be if we didn't have children. I don't think I knew before becoming a parent how visceral my feelings would be toward someone who did the things that Sandusky did. I understand the anger and hatred being poured out on anyone who could have stopped the molestations- I just know that hatred can only do so much good for so long. And it's not my call to decide when and how that hatred should stop by everyone affected. As outsiders, I think our job is to offer a safe place to land for those hurting. And not tell them they should stop being hurt and angry, but not add to their pain by striking out. Hard to do when I look at my babes and realize what I would be capable of doing if anyone hurt them.