A couple of years ago, I remember driving home from a camping trip. There was something in the middle of the road. As we came closer I could see that it was a deer. It didn’t move an inch as our car came closer. We circled around it and kept driving up the road. As the road curved I took one last look in the rearview mirror at the body and right as the deer came out of view, it lifted it’s head up from the ground. It sent chills down my spine.
We didn’t go back. We had all kinds of reasons not to. We had a long drive to get home. The area was too remote. Someone else will stop and help it. We didn’t have a gun or a knife to put the deer to rest.
As the miles accumulated between our car and that poor dying deer I felt tremendous guilt well up in me. It’s just an animal. It’s probably already dead. Right?
When I first heard about the allegations of abuse against Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky the first thing I thought about was the deer. A graduate student saw him sodomizing a 10 year old child in the showers. He told Joe Paterno, the winningest football coach in college football history. The longest tenured and most influential figure on the campus and in the community.
Joe reported the story to a Penn State official. Then he moved on. Jerry Sandusky continued doing what he had been doing for years. Grooming little boys and sexually abusing them. Joe wouldn’t have known of course, because he did the bare minimum to keep himself out of trouble. Maybe that was enough to assuage any guilt he would have had.
I understand Joe. After driving 100 miles, I had my friend pull to the side of the road. I got animal control on the phone. Reported to them that I saw a deer on the road which seemed to be alive. I told myself that I did my best. It is now in their hands. What more could I do right? I did my part.
For some reason, I have never been able to forget that split second. Seeing that scared and vulnerable creature lift it’s furry head off of the bloody concrete. In that moment we made a choice. Keep driving.
It was a choice. Much like Joe. If there was anybody on that campus who could have put a stop to Sandusky’s horrific exploitation it would have been Joe. You don’t say no to the biggest man on campus.
He never followed up. He never made sure the police knew what was going on.
He didn’t turn the car around.