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It Takes A Village

It takes a village to raise a child….. This old, familiar proverb has always resonated with me and it’s part of why I am so grateful for my Facebook village of mommy’s. But I think this wise saying has much more power than that. It takes a village to make an impact, to make a difference, to change our world for the better. To me, raising a child to do these things, with the help of “your village” is of course the whole point of this proverb, but lately I’ve been focusing more on the impact part.

Make an impact.

Make an impact.

Such simple yet strong words.

I’m not going to talk about the extraordinary things Joe Paterno did in his 85 years of life, the exceptional values he espoused, his accomplishments off the field or how his impact will be felt for eternity. Well, I’m not going to talk about these things directly, because those who knew him, even if they never met him, already know these things. Those who were unfortunate to not know him until after say, November 8, 2011 and now think that they do, talking about these things will not sway their opinions now and I have to accept that or be overcome by resentment and anger, which is not the JoePa way. Countless of courageous (versus spineless) journalists and everyday people like you and I have written brilliant articles talking about who the real Joe was, and they did this so much more eloquently than I could dream of, which is part of why I won’t bother! Over the past couple of heartbreaking months, especially more recently, an overwhelming number of public figures, people with the power to influence, have spoken about who the real Joe was. If these thousands of testimonies that run counter to the hasty judgements made by the masses based on the mainstream media’s ability to twist the truth and change a handful of very powerful words to create a fictional story in the minds of all who don’t know Joe, then my words will not have an impact either. And Joe Pa wanted each of us to have an impact.

One thing all of this has reminded me of is just how powerful the media is.

“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses” – Malcolm X

While I’m reminiscing on a paper I once wrote on this influential (and controversial) man, lets throw this one out there too….

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice no matter who it is for or against. I’m a human being first and foremost and as such I’m for whoever or whatever benefits humanity as a whole.”

Wow, powerful. Truth, justice and tikkun olam (or repairing the world) which I equate to doing what benefits humanity, are always concepts swarming around in this Jewish little head of mine. I mean, without these things we are really no different than any of God’s other creatures. Of course, at times, I wonder how different we really are. (My pessimistic self talk in full swing) I tend to perpetuate this pessimism by reading the comments after the countless number of articles written about Joe Paterno lately. Though, it’s not just the comments after these articles that scorch my brain with the realities of hate and evil, judgements, injustice and inhumanity. I see this in the things people comment on about Israel, Jews, Blacks, Muslims, America, Gays, Democrats, Republicans, Atheists, people who are pro-choice, celebrities who have done nothing but become famous through their passion and gifts for acting, singing, playing a sport, writing…. My heart aches and I picture the scene in the Fifth Element where she’s dying because we as a society don’t seem worth saving. Though then I think again (my optimism and hope self talk fighting back)…. It takes a village…. and the light of my unlimited hope in the betterment of mankind rekindles and I remember there are very few other creatures on earth who are capable of (none I know capable of all) loyalty, compassion, love and limitless knowledge available from the pursuit of education. I remember we still have a chance, WE are the only chance there is, but it will take the whole village working as a team rather than against each other. Joe Pa knew this, that it takes a team, not an individual, and he taught it with every ounce of his being, not just to his own children but he embedded it into the core of Penn State and everyone who knew him.

Now, it would be ridiculous to say every single person who has come through Penn State adopted these core values, just as it would be equally ridiculous to say no one can understand such values if you didn’t go to Penn State. There are innumerable non-Penn Staters who “knew” JoePa, both personally or from being a fan. Some were just fans because of what he did on the field and I feel sorry for those fans but I hope now, they “know” Joe too. Some Penn Staters were not fans but came out of Penn State better, possibly not even realizing how much of their “education” bloomed from the Paterno’s love, dedication, generosity and loyalty to Penn State. Then there’s the countless people who espouse these same values and never heard the name Joe Paterno. I know, I know, this may come as a shock to some of you, just as I was dumbfounded when I made such a discovery 7 years ago. Though now like you, I’m fully aware the whole world doesn’t know Joe! After all, he wasn’t God….despite what others think we believe. What this boils down to, as I believe I have digressed a bit, is that any student can obtain an education while at school. BUT, most do not obtain more than a degree and years they may recall as some of the best memories of their life; most do not leave knowing they are a part of something bigger than themselves and more than their degree (I’m in no way knocking anyone’s degree, every last one is valuable). But the simple fact remains, most people do not leave college with a family beyond the one they have known their whole life. Our village, our family, our happy valley, was built because Joe knew more than football. He knew it takes a village to make an impact; a lasting, meaningful impact that can be felt worldwide.

Now, let’s not be naive my fellow villagers (from PSU), MANY people hated us and what we represented LONG before the media gave them this idea. Sadly, part of the darkness of our world is the human nature to hate. I find people often hate what they don’t know, what they can’t understand, what they are jealous of and/or wish they had. Some of the hate for JoePa and Penn State as a whole, prior to these sick “alleged” crimes that took place in our home, is because of these things. Many people do not like to see others succeed and they enjoy even more to see those who have succeeded fail and fall. Humans are sort of sick and twisted like that. This isn’t so much my pessimism talking again but rather my realistic side. We see it everyday. Human nature is more often the exact opposite of who Joe Paterno was. It is greedy and power hungry, there’s a money lust that makes my mind spin, an affinity for violence that plagues our past and present and a selfishness that will tear down the village. This is what our media spews everyday. Our movies and video games are the same (unless all you watch are romantic comedies or have young children and Caillou or Word World are your life like mine) To be honest, adults could learn a few things from these cartoons! But it’s the media that controls the masses, remember? And fluff stories about the pit bulls who are therapy dogs get 30 seconds (if any time at all) while the headline is of the one trained to be violent and an innocent child gets mauled. There’s live coverage of our wars but where is the live coverage of THON? Better yet, where are the stories of other heroes, everyday heroes that if their story was told maybe they could have the impact on the world like Joe Pa had on us. How many of you know of one of our fellow Penn Staters, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, who was killed in Afghanistan demonstrating selflessness and loyalty? This one may be unfair because there was a lot of coverage, but my point is that his name and story should be more well known than what the masses think they know about JoePa and Sandusky’s “alleged” crimes. Don’t get me wrong, we need to know these things but we also need to know more than all the evils of the world. Of course, those other stories don’t bring in the big bucks. Despite that, we can’t allow the media’s lack of these values let us lose our way; any of us. One thing the media was not prepared for was the roar of Nittany Lion Nation. We are a nation far greater than ourselves because we are just a small part of that village that is destined to make an impact. It’s through our love and our compassion for all of humanity; our forgiveness for those who don’t know JoePa and even those that did but tried to tear him down anyway, forgiveness for what feels unforgivable; it’s through our acts of selflessness and generosity; it’s through our “family” loyalty, education, excellence and success with honor that we can all make an impact. Isn’t that what JoePa taught us?

It’s what I learned anyway, but I’m far from perfect and I have to remind myself each day of these lessons lest I stop growing and lose the ability the teach these values to my own children. I need my village to fight to remember too though, because I, like Joe Pa, believe deep down in my heart that we are ALL destined to do great things. It takes a village to do great things, it takes a village to make an impact.


Jaci Hoosier is an ’00 graduate of HDFS.

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