Kids will be kids? I don't think so ...

I had intended this week to address firearms and mental health in light of recent national and worldwide events. I think I’ll save it for next week, with regard to the recent incident in the Town of Oxford and the possible armed man at large (at the Norwich Kwik-Fill), even though these local events will not change my opinion on the subject.

Friday morning I wrote an article about the restoration of the Norwich Jewish Center and its dedication celebration to be held in early October. In order to be accurate in the article I had to do a little leg-work concerning what happened at the center back in 2008.

Three teen boys (between 13 and 14) broke into the historic three-story building that was the place of worship for Jewish congregants in the region, and did hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. There wasn’t a room left untouched, according to reports. I received photos from the inside of the building after the boys did their damage and wanted to either vomit or cry.

The anti-Semitic message scrawled on the blackboard in one of the rooms was vile.

The teens, by law, could only be handed a sentence that included community service, probation, and a little bit of restitution. Each boy was ordered to pay $1,500 – $60 per month – and the judge said the money had to be paid by the boys, not their parents. I was informed not all of the boys paid their restitution.

While perusing old stories that covered the crime, I read comments stating that the boys were “troubled” and “weren’t bad kids, but had a couple problems.”

Absolutely destroying a piece of property and blatantly showing disrespect toward a population of the community is something that I can’t ever think is okay – restitution paid and time served or not.

I am in no place to say how these boys are now – they could be upstanding members of the community who have “snapped out of it” and decided to be respectful humans. I have no idea what these fellas are up to.

On that night five years ago, three adolescent bodies with apparent adolescent brains ransacked this place that was absolutely beautiful. The victims of this hate crime have had to work all these years to restore their precious place of worship, and the place they considered home for community events.

I came across comments on articles that said, “Kids will be kids.”

Yes, kids will be kids. But vandals will be vandals and thugs will be thugs. Doing more than $200,000 worth of damage to one building is not kids being kids. Kids being kids is getting an older friend to buy beer and going in the woods to drink it. Kids being kids is even skipping school because they think video games are more fun. Kids being kids is not destroying the property of someone else for who-knows-what reason.

I just seriously wonder what these children were thinking. Some comments blamed the parents for not teaching their kids right from wrong. I don’t know if that was the case or not. Some claimed the teens were mentally unstable. Again, I am in no position to comment on that.

I can say the boys were lucky they didn’t break into the home of someone who was equipped and ready to defend their property and/or life.

So many people worked together – both within the community and from across the nation – to restore the Jewish Center, and that makes my heart happy. It took time and money, but I am glad the center is now functional again. I can’t imagine what it must have been like, as a congregant, to see that destruction and have to work for years to return the building to a functional capacity.

Thanks to those boys, though, the place will never be the same. I guess I wonder if the teens are happy with themselves. Satisfied with their actions? I also wonder how the congregants of the Jewish Center feel. Do they forgive the boys for their actions? I understand the boys read apologies in court, but were they sincere? Who can say?

In one of my favorite spoken word pieces, “Hurling Crowbirds at Mockingbars,” Buddy Wakefield says, “Forgiveness is the release of all hope for a better past.”

The damage is done. It was done when the boys made the conscious decision to trespass and vandalize property not belonging to them. It was done again when not all of the boys paid their restitution.

In my opinion, no punishment could have been legally handed down that would have made the victims of their crime whole. The boys didn’t have the financial resources to pay to repair the building they destroyed. Did their apologies serve as enough to ease the hearts and minds of the Jewish community? I have no idea.

What upsets me is the “kids will be kids” line. As an adult, if your idea of “kids will be kids” is breaking into a building, scrawling horrific phrases of hate and smashing almost everything in sight is a simple, “Ehh, it happens,” sort of event … you have something wrong in your own head and I hope you never procreate. (Maybe that was a little harsh, maybe not).

Regardless, I am happy the center is ready to hold a restoration celebration. That makes me super happy.

As for the boys – or any who may have been in their shoes – Wakefield also said, “Forgiveness is for anyone who needs a safe passage through my mind.”

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