12/14/2012. This morning, my boss, his wife and another colleague visited an elementary school in Tampa as part of our company’s community giving initiative. We were to deliver the students new & used books and encourage the students to read. Initially I did not want to go because I am not one of those people who deals well with children. I do not wish any harm on them and love meeting the offspring of people I know but overall, I am quite apathetic. When my boss asked me to come because they needed volunteers, my outside voice said enthusiastically “Ok, sure!” because I like having a job, while my inside voice said “aaaaw man! I don’t even really like kids, why me??” To top it off I had to come in early that morning because our scheduled time in the classroom was first thing in the morning. I winced a bit and he said “don’t worry, it’s only 30 minutes earlier and I will drive us all there.”
In the days leading up to this morning I tried to think of what I would say to the students because I don’t really read many books anymore. The extent of my reading these days, Twitter & the captions that come up while I’m playing video games. I thought to myself “hey, I can talk about the video games I have played and liked, and then share how many of them have encouraged me to read.” I remembered how much I loved the BioShock story such that I bought the prequel book and also a copy of “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Then I counter thought that their teacher might not appreciate me broaching the topic of games when the point of our visit was to discuss literacy. Then I thought of ways I could possibly get out of even going and then thought how disappointed my boss would be if I dropped out. By the time Thursday evening rolled around, I accepted my fate. I was going to have to go and be around kids.
Come this morning we loaded into his sweet BMW 5-series and I jumped into the back seat so I could have a “Driving Miss Daisy” experience but with race role reversal since my boss is white and I’m black. DENIED. He made me sit in the passenger seat. It was a short drive to the school and I dreaded every moment of it. I still really didn’t want to go.
When we arrived at the school we checked in at the office. The four of us stood a while in the lobby waiting for the Principal and I felt a little uncomfortable. There was absolutely no security at all. I looked up and down the hallways to see where all of the exits were. I don’t know why I thought of that. Maybe it’s a result of growing up in NY, or maybe it’s because of past history with school shooting. It was then I realized that my back was to the door. Earlier this week I read an article on GamesRadar on how stupid AI guards are and one of their topics talked about how they always stand with their back to the door. You have no idea how many AI guards I’ve taken out that way. I then turned my back from the door and was then facing the door. It made me feel a little better.
Eventually we were met by the Principal and then the Vice Principal. Both were very excited to have us there and said how happy the kids were knowing that we were coming and bringing them books that they could keep. It softened me a little bit. Ugh…I’m moving more to the F side of the scale, but I digress. My colleague and I went into one of the 5th grade classrooms and there were about 15 children there smiling. I introduced myself and stated what company I worked for, and then I introduced the book - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Then I read the back of the book to them and handed out the books. Somehow the conversation devolved into video games. I think I said that it was important to read about the topics that interest you and I really like video games and I read many magazines and articles related to them. Then the whirlwind started.
There was one particular student, I will call him “Don”, who asked me a myriad of questions at that point. The overview of our exchange is as follows:
Don: What kind of games do you play?
Me: I really like role playing games where I can use magic.
Don: Do you play Black Ops 2?
Me: No, that is really not my type of game. I will watch other people play it though. Did you know that a man named Oliver North was a consultant on that game? He is a major political figure and if you can use the internet in class, you should research him and learn about his impact in the country.(My attempt to bring it all back to learning and reading)
Don: You should play it. It’s so cool. There are all these guns, and you get a knife.
It was at this point that I got uncomfortable because I am well aware of all the media “correlations” to violence in kids and video games. Not that I thought Don was violent, but I wanted to be sure he understood that he was not going to glorify this game and it’s arsenal. He is only 10 years old and clearly has likely never encountered a real weapon. I’ve been to a gun range. It was VERY hard the first time I ever pulled the trigger and that was just with a paper target.
Me: There are a lot of games where you get weapons and are tasked with missions to harm others, but let me be clear violence is not ok in real life. Games do not always depict the effect of your actions on others, the emotional impact on the world, the sadness of their families and friends having lost a loved one. Always know the difference between the game world and the real world. There are real consequences to violence in the real world.
It was then another student asked what game I was playing at the moment and I told them Far Cry 3. They asked what it was about. I was apprehensive of saying that it’s about getting kidnapped while on vacation with your friends - so I said it’s about a vacation gone pretty bad and being stuck on an island with a bunch of wild animals and pirates. They were thankfully impressed with the emus, tigers and bears (oh my!) so I didn’t need to elaborate on “how” you deal with the wild animals or pirates.
Other topics I was asked about: taxes, what I originally wanted to be when I grew up, what kind of car I drive, how much money I make. Man are kids ever nosy. Ha ha. We then talked about what they wanted to be when they grow up - one female student wants to be a layer and asked me how I felt about the fact that lawyers seem to lie a lot to get criminals out of “rightfully” going to jail. I must say I was so impressed by this question. I told her that I have a very strict moral compass and there is no way I am going to hide anyone’s crime or help them get out of a punishment that they rightfully deserve. I encouraged her to follow her own moral compass in life and not do things that she feels do not point in the same direction as her moral compass. Another said he wanted to be a math teacher, another a doctor and they all seemed so enthusiastic about their futures. At the end of the visit, I had such a feeling of satisfaction that I don’t think I have ever had. They weren’t my kids, but I felt so much hope and pride in them.
On the drive back to the office I thought about all the kids I spoke with and wondered what they would be when they grew up. I smiled to myself. We arrived back at the office it was 9:26 AM, the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut started around 9:40 AM. As I sit here typing this post with tears and shaking hands, there are 18-20 children dead. There are 18-20 fewer inventors, doctors, lawyers, game developers, and entrepreneurs. I watched our President cry. I cried. Had I not gone to that school this morning, I know I would not feel as deeply touched by this as I do. You see, I think of those children I spoke with this morning, that have so much promise, enthusiasm and joy. Those children that have been so callously taken had promise.
My heart truly breaks for everyone involved and affected.
Disclaimer: This post is my own. All opinions reflected in it are my own and not of my employer. My employer does rock though :)
Lately, I have been really slacking on blog posts. Originally I committed to having at least one post a day. I have many, many ideas for things I should be writing about, as well as about 100 unpublished posts in drafts. I lay blame squarely at the feet of the following people, persons, things, entities etc.:
(1) My daily indulgence of wine in the evenings
(2) The Witcher 2 & Deus Ex for being so freaking awesome AND having such sexy protagonists that I pay for hours and hours on end
(3) The IRS for being the bastards they are.
(4) Work….always getting the way. First gaming, now blog posts!
(6) Anyone else but me
I’ll get back to this blog soon and post some fun stories. I will get back on track. I simply cannot allow myself to be distracted by anyt……hey, isn’t the Game of Thrones RPG coming out soon??
Every store should advertise sales like this.