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Lessons on learning good from bad

A crosswalk at Central and Morningside was painted in rainbow colors in honor of Pride Month. Days later, it was vandalized with the burning rubber of a motorcycle tire. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A reader had a story and a moral to it.

“While shopping in a Smith’s on Sunday, I observed this: A boy, age maybe 7, was ‘sword fighting’ with two large, long summer sausages, swinging them around, stabbing air, etc.,” Kevin McKeown wrote in an email. “Mom was there the entire time. I asked him to stop this. He did, giving me a dirty look.”

But the fight wasn’t over.

McKeown said he later encountered the hyperactive boy again, and, this time, the boy’s weapon of choice was his finger, and he was poking it into the eye of his little brother.

The little boy screamed. The mother did nothing.

“I spoke up, telling older boy to knock it off and behave,” he said.

The mom, who had ignored everything up until then, took notice.

“At this point, mom intervened, telling me to get lost and mind my own business, and to stop trying to discipline her children,” he said. “If this wasn’t bad enough, other shoppers came to the defense of the mother, telling me it’s not my business.”

Things went downhill from there.

“Wonder why NM has such a bad crime problem?” he asked. “This is why.”

That’s a bit simplistic, but I get what he’s saying. Right and wrong, good and bad are taught early. Manners are learned. Goodness is nurtured.

Which is to say, mamas (and papas), don’t let your babies grow up to be jerks.

That doesn’t mean that one is destined to grow up bad if mom and dad are asleep at the wheel – or worse. And it doesn’t mean those who are raised in decent, disciplined homes are entitled to halos.

Learning right and wrong is further complicated because what is right to some is wrong to others. Telling a kid to behave when his parent won’t, for example, can elicit both applause and admonition.

This week, we’ve seen more examples of the good, the bad and the conflicted in a world that seems overrun by unruly children poking at each other’s eyes.

• On Tuesday, biker Anthony Morgan was arrested on charges relating to the vandalizing of a $30,000 rainbow crosswalk in Nob Hill last week. Instead of seeing this as a good ending to a bad thing, many complained about the cost of the crosswalk, the meaning of the crosswalk and how Albuquerque police detectives were either too fast or too slow to catch the road ravager.

• Also Tuesday, a huge brawl broke out at Highland High School where two 7-on-7 high school football games were being played. The melee involved at least 100 members from the four teams and their parents (their parents!). “We had a student make a bad decision during the game resulting in an ejection and then it escalated by having parents display poor behavior,” Metro Passing League organizer John Barnhill said.

• Again on Tuesday, Arizona jurors deadlocked in a case involving geography teacher Scott Warren’s efforts to assist two Central American migrants by giving them food, water and shelter as they sneaked across the harsh Arizona desert. Jurors were split on whether Warren’s deed was a Christian act of kindness or criminal.

• Even the record-shattering 13-0 victory by the U.S. women’s soccer team over Thailand at the World Cup in France – also on Tuesday – drew disparaging remarks from those who thought the women were too gleeful about their trouncing. It was disgraceful, some said. Disgusting. Disrespectful. Classless. It was too much winning.

Ah, this world. We’re never going to completely eradicate the bad, agree upon the good, quell the anger, even if it involves the weaponization of a summer sausage.

A note left on a windshield is an apology for the nominal damage done to a reporter’s vehicle. (Joline Gutierrez Krueger/Albuquerque Journal)

But in all the madness one can always find some spark of irrefutable good. For me, this week it was this:

Leaving a shopping trip to Cabela’s on Wednesday, I found a note on my windshield.

“I am so sorry but we backed into your car,” it began. The note also included names, phone number, address and license plate of the truck that did the damage.

Except there was no real damage. Had there not been a note, I might have not noticed a thing.

What I noticed was that the truck owners did the right thing. And that was a good thing.

I called the phone number, and out came a woman, still apologizing and offering to make things right.

She already had.

Judging from a sticker on the back of her truck, I surmised she was a mom. I’m betting she doesn’t let her kids get away with misbehaving in grocery stores.

I told her not to worry, that I was moved by her honesty and kindness. We hugged and went on our way, smiles on both our faces.

Wonder why NM is still a good place? This is why.

UpFront is a front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Joline at 823-3603, or follow her on Twitter @jolinegkg. Go to to submit a letter to the editor.

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