In the Zone

A story of innocence punished

Amid all the recent frenzy of the news cycle, I came across an interesting local story that stuck with me.

It seems that in the woods of New Jersey, a thirsty deer spotted some water inside a globe-shaped glass lighting fixture that someone had tossed out.

Unfortunately, the deer’s head became stuck inside the globe. That had two terrible effects. One, she was not able to drink or eat. And two, the other deer took one look at this strange creature and decided she was not one of them and turned their back on her.

The deer wandered alone in the woods growing weaker and weaker, slowly dying. Finally she was spotted by one of the townspeople who called the authorities. The animal-control people were able to tranquilize the deer and remove the globe and, I like to think, she was able to resume a normal life among the other deer.

It was an odd story, but one that brought tears to my eyes. It made me think about who I am, and who we are, in this story? Are we the herd of deer who turn our backs on a creature who appears to be a little different than us? Are we the lone deer who sees the world around us as clearly as ever, but is separated from it by a strange twist of fate? Or are we the good Samaritan who took the time to recognize the deer’s distress and call for help?

The story made me realize that I want to be the noticer. Even more, I want to be someone who looks for those who are stumbling around alone in dire need of help. Hearing about this creature that was dying because she just wanted a drink of water stirred the social justice warrior in me.

Whether it was when I was growing up in a mixed neighborhood of Queens, through my work at the NYC Administration for Children’s Services or at the Harlem Children’s Zone, I have seen countless good people who simply needed help.

Theirs were stories of innocence unnecessarily being punished, stories that cultivated within me a deep-seated sense of empathy, stories that grew that rootstock of empathy outward toward taking action.