Commentary: Beating The Blame Game

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000

When I was a kid, baseball was my favorite sport. During the summer, my friends and I played it all day, every day. When there weren’t enough of us to go to the middle school and play on the diamond, we would play in the grass court in front of our apartment complex. The two trees in the center were home plate and second base; the tall bushes on each side first and third. It was much shorter than the middle-school field, plus it had plenty of windows. So, we used a tennis ball instead of a baseball, and a hard plastic bat instead of wood or aluminum.

One day, while we were playing, my friend Michael hit a hard line drive that smashed one of the upstairs apartment windows. So naturally, we did what almost every kid does in that situation — we ran! Some of us went home, others like my friend Dominick and I went to the Walgreens down the street to buy candy and hide out until the heat was off.

When we returned, we were surprised to see Michael talking to the man whose window he had broken several minutes earlier. When they were done talking, we asked Michael what happened. “Did he catch you?”

He said no, he didn’t run. After the man came outside his door to find out what happened, Michael said that he walked upstairs and told him that he broke the window. When we asked why he did that instead of run, or blame someone else, Michael said, “Just because.”

I had never seen a kid do that before. To just own up to breaking a window without your parents making you? The man thanked Michael for telling him, told him it was OK, that accidents happen. He’d call maintenance and have them replace the window. To this day, I’ve never forgotten the way Michael owned up to what he did. He took responsibility for breaking that window without giving it a second thought, without being forced to. I remember thinking at the time,

What if I had broken the window instead of Michael? Would I have taken responsibility for my actions, or would I have been at the store hiding out?

Thinking about what happened that day brings me to my point: that many of us don’t own up to our mistakes. We don’t take responsibility for our actions. A few so-called social outcasts shoot up a school? It’s the video game’s fault. Violence breaks out at a club? It’s rap music’s fault. A politician says something stupid? It’s the media?s fault. Someone lives a life of crime? It’s society?s fault. When our kids do something wrong, it was the other kids’ that made them do it. It’s always someone else’s fault.

The blame game knows no age, gender or color. Rich or poor, it doesn’t matter. There’s always someone to blame when we don’t get what we want, or what we feel we deserve.

I have learned over the years — sometimes the hard way — that life is what you make of it. We are all responsible for the decisions we make. There isn’t a video game, movie, or a rap record that can make anyone do anything. No one puts a gun in your hand. No one puts a needle in your arm. No one makes you get behind a wheel after a night of drinking. No one makes you say anything to anyone that you don’t want to say. It’s on each of us to be accountable for what we do.

And when we screw up, we have a responsibility to take ownership of what we’ve done. That’s the hardest part. But if it were easy, everyone would do it.

I haven’t seen or heard from Michael since high school. I wonder if he’s still the same stand-up guy that admitted to breaking the window years ago. Whatever the case, he taught me a lesson that I’m still learning today: break a window, own up to it.