4:49pm on a Thursday.
Rarely do I doubt how I've handled a situation on the air. Sometimes I lay in bed before sleep and review the morning's radio show - "Shoulda said this really perfect thing to caller Bob...:" or "maybe I shouldn't have gotten so mad and called caller Elephant an 'idiot.'"
Stuff like that. But today's a little different. Caller Carl from Hessville showed up at the studio a little after 6am with a poem in his hand. And I read it on the air. You tell me if it was the right thing to do. The poem's in the blog entry below.
Here's the quandary. It's a good poem and it comes from the heart of Carl, who asked that the poem be written, and Patricia Hofmiller, who wrote the poem at Carl's suggestion. The death of Lauren Calvillo has captured all of our hearts. Just look at how many people have listened to the podcast of an interview I did with Lauren's mom, Ollie, earlier this week. We're stunned, scared and a little pissed that a 16-year-old at Hammond High could be sitting on her porch with five kids and be gunned down by gang members. And the violence comes on top of other violence in a lot of different areas of the Calumet Region and we're all touched by it, one way or another.
Me, I'm a little wiped out. Day after day of extreme and violent acts. Today it was a guy in Gary reportedly getting all drunk and then pissed at a party, so he drove in to a crowd, killing one and leaving several strewn down the street. He ran into parked cars. Then the crowd reportedly pulled him out and beat the crap out of him. He's in Christ Advocate in Oak Lawn, which is where you go when it's really bad.
Heap on top of that a Dyer man shot in his place of business yesterday morning in St. John... and the perpetrator reportedly sitting for a half hour talking to police with a gun in his mouth. How much more of this can we take in this relatively small and sleepy corner of Indiana?
Back to Carl's poem. He said - "I took it to your buddy Ken (Kevin) Kish at the funeral home where they laid out Lauren.. and he said 'I nailed it.'"
That's what Carl said when I nonchalantly brought him on the air this morning.
"All righty then, let me see the poem." And I read it live on the air.
Kevin was right. Carl, or more accurately, Patricia Hofmiller, nailed it. It rhymes, which is good for the masses, and there's religious imagery and a decent rhythm. And there's a couple lines that'll hit you between the eyes.
We loved you, Lauren, oh, so much,
until the very end.
But then one day you lost your life
to try to save a friend.
My first reservation is - was I being insensitive to Ollie Hubbard, Lauren's mom, whom I sat and hugged as she cried in the studio the other day. Raw, unrelenting grief. She may, just a little, have given me a little of her trust to come on the air and tell her story... in an open and unfiltered way. Have I betrayed, somehow, that trust?
I hope not. And the other reservation is that Patricia's line isn't entirely accurate. We didn't necessarily love Lauren "oh, so much." She had cancer as a toddler and underwent all sorts of chemo. Ultimately, she ended up on steroids, and that made her heavy. You can tell from the photos on the poster that Ollie and her niece brought into the studio that Lauren carried weight that wasn't necessarily natural.
And that she was open to taunting, which is what Ollie says happened almost daily at Hammond High. How sad is that? And what does that say for you and me? If you ran into a rather heavy little Mexican girl and her several cousins and neighborhood kids at Target - what would you think in your head? What instant generalizations would you make? We can all say that Lauren, we loved you "oh, so much," but did we really? Even if we had known the ultimate outcome and pain of Lauren's life, would we have behaved any differently?
It's not a fair question, I know. But don't you see - I'm the guy, for better or worse, who puts our Region lives in context. There are others, too, reporters and commentators and so forth. But I'm the guy every morning and with that goes some responsibility to get it right. And I gotta make sure when I read a poem about something as deep and real as a bullied 16-year-old Mexican girl getting shot while ushering little kids in the house to get away from the shooting... that I get it right. And I'm not sure I've gotten this one right.
Although... if you return to Patricia's poem, maybe there is some accuracy in the final stanza.
On that day she was taken
from her mother's loving care,
God took his little angel back...
Her help was needed there...
There is much comfort in these lines... that there is an afterlife and Lauren is enjoying it with a benevolent God. And He has given her a role similar to the one she had here on earth when she shielded the five young kids and took the bullets herself. But still, I don't know. I missed something. Can't figure out what it is, but I missed something in my analysis of the life and death of Lauren Calvillo. Talk to you later.