During the holiday season, the campus residents and the other children and youth we serve submit lists to Santa. These lists are quickly dispatched to a legion of Santa’s helpers who then make sure each list is faithfully fulfilled, helping to create a memorable holiday season for all we serve, children and families alike.
One of our residents is an avid Seahawks fan. Prominent on his list was a request for a Richard Sherman poster. Sherman is the cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks and the man of the hour who contributed significantly to the team’s success this season. One of our volunteers used his influence to not only get a Seahawks poster, but to work with Richard Sherman to have it personally autographed. How cool is that?
We await the resident’s reaction but can just imagine that this kind of personalized attention will make this holiday season very memorable. For an African-American child who has to deal with many stereotypes and biases, it is important to be able to look up to such an extraordinary role model as Richard Sherman. Finding strong African-American role models is just one way that this boy will mitigate the prejudices that impact his life and hopefully will inspire him to be as accomplished in his own field as Richard Sherman is in football.
In one way or another, we have all been struck by the reactions that have swept across the country to the verdicts that have been issued regarding police officers’ use of deadly force. The commentaries have been many, but one that resonates with me is that stereotypes played a role in justifying the use of lethal means to address the issues confronting these police officers. Assuming the color of one’s skin is an indicator of the intent to do harm is a dangerous position for law enforcement to take. The presumption of innocence and due process of the law are fundamental beliefs in our society that require universal application by law enforcement if this concept is to continue to be a guiding principle of our justice system.
In such a reactionary environment, when many of us feel helpless to stem the tide of injustice, it is the simple gesture that can win the day and make the biggest impression. Richard Sherman provided such a gesture when he affirmed for a young, impressionable fan that the boy was worth extra effort. The volunteer who went out of his way to not only check off an item from a Christmas list but to make this one item special also provided a gesture of support and affirmation. For this adolescent boy, and indeed, for all the children we serve who are often the objects of generalizations and bigotry, this gesture not only makes for a memorable holiday but makes a powerful statement that such youth are far more than what anyone might think of them in a split second in the midst of a crisis.
This is truly what the holiday season is all about — creating meaningful and memorable experiences that create a lasting impact on the lives of all we serve.