Roy Exum: The ‘Other’ Baltimore

Sunday, March 13, 2016 - by Roy Exum

On April 29th last year, I was deeply concerned that my America would never be the same. Vicious rioting in Baltimore caused the Orioles-White Sox baseball game at Camden Yards to be played that afternoon with not one person in the stands. How terribly sad is that? Baseball is the All-American game. It is our soul. But when fear and anger mix to change the way we live, part of us quits living.

Several weeks ago in the same Baltimore, a University of Maryland policeman was on patrol when he saw something that forced him to pull over and try not to cry. Luckily, he had a camera and Officer Eric Gaines snapped a picture of a black teenager, Stephen Watkins, kneeling beside a white homeless man, reach to touch his foot, and pray for him.

Last year, the mass bedlam that shook the city after the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody, resulted in 486 arrests, 20 police officers injured, 150 vehicle fires, 60 structure fires, 27 drugstores looted and over 300 businesses damaged.  Some now believe one guy – Steven Watkins – is showing us something that is bigger than the riots and the millions of dollars that were senselessly lost.

“I watched this kid walk past, stop, and walk over to this homeless man, touch his foot, and start praying,” said patrolman Gaines. “This was an amazing sight,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I pray this kid becomes a leader amongst his peers, and continues on this path! Not all Baltimore youth are lost!”

Gaines told reporters from the Baltimore Sun, “It was good to see a young black man, especially in this community, doing something positive,” Gaines, who is also black, told the Sun. “That’s why I took the picture. It was powerful on so many levels, and for it to be in my presence — it was crazy.”

What’s not crazy is the way the Facebook post has gone viral with well over 30,000 “shares” from Gaines’ Facebook page alone. Gaines told reporters before he could talk to the teenager the boy ran to catch a bus but soon the picture flooded news outlets and the Good Samaritan was identified as the 18-year-old Watkins, who was on his way home from school.

Stephen said he was listening to a song when he spied the homeless man and it inspired him to get off the bus and do an act of kindness. “I prayed for him. I said, ‘God, right now You are using me to bless this man …thank You for showing me this through a song.”

“I really didn’t believe it at first, but now I really see it,” said a nearby lady, “We need to come together as a family,” she added while Marvin Edwards, who was also nearby, said, “I think it was great for (Stephen) to do that, to take time and pray for a man who obviously needs help.”

Stephen does not think it is a big deal. He told station WJZ-TV that he and his twin brother preach in the streets fairly often. That’s why the “likes” and “shares” on Facebook are meaningless to him. “I don’t want any glory; it was all for (God).”

Both Gaines and Watkins hope the inspiring act will become contagious. What a better city Baltimore would be.

* * *

A simple human error in Chattanooga last weekend has made headlines in Boston. A misplaced turn-around marker in the Chattanooga Marathon left the 26.2-mile course – placed two blocks closer to the finish line than it should have been -- 0.28 miles short … too short to be certified.

Some of the 529 finishers had planned to use the time in the Chattanooga race to qualify for the much-heralded Boston Marathon in 2017. This year’s Boston race will not be affected by the mistake, since runners who have qualified for next month’s race used times from other races between September 2014 and September 2015.

Jack Fleming, a spokesman for the Boston group, said he has requested more information from Chattanooga officials. “We’ll have to understand the circumstances,” he told reporters, "so there is really nothing else we can say at this point.”

Qualifying times for Boston are split by age and sex but in the men’s 18-34 age group don’t bother to enter if you haven’t scored better than three hours, five minutes over an improved course. And regardless of qualifying times, entries are awarded by speed, which is to say the qualifying time for men 18-34 for this April was 3:05 but the age-group allotment was filled by 3:02.32 or better.

* * *

When Ira Keys' father told him to save every penny back in the 1950s, young Ira took the old man at his word so last year, at age 65, Keys went out to his garage and loaded up all the pennies he had saved over the years.

All in all, his stash weighed over 500 pounds and added up to 81,600 at the teller’s window. (That’s $816, if you are reading this one hour ahead of time after setting your clocks forward last night.)

* * *

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Apple, Inc.

royexum@aol.com



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