A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker


Where is Ward Cleaver when you need him?

As the Beaver's dad on "Leave it to Beaver," he always seemed to know the right thing to say whenever his sons ran into new obstacles on the road of life. Calm, confident and wise, he had a knack for seeing through the surface frustrations and getting right to the heart of things, usually teaching an important lesson with a few well-chosen words in between puffs on his pipe.

"Gee, Dad," Wally would say after the sermonette, "I guess you're right."

"Thanks, Dad," the Beaver would add. "You're swell."

Unfortunately, things rarely turn out like that for me. The Walkers run into the same kinds of obstacles the Cleavers faced, and we do our best to survive the impact. But when the time comes to be glib and articulate, my mind turns mushy and my tang gets toungled.

Kill the swelling music. Cue the laugh track.

Like a few weeks ago. My 9-year-old son, Jon, and some of his friends were outside playing . . . well, I'm not exactly sure what they were playing, although I'm pretty sure it had something to do with Pokemon. And I'm also pretty sure they were loud and annoying in their play. They are 9-year-old boys - it's what they do.

Evidently they were loud and annoying enough to attract the attention of one of the teenage boys in the neighborhood, who started throwing rocks at the boys in an attempt to get them to quiet down. The boys thought he was just kidding around until he actually hit one of them, sending the youngster home in pain and bringing the game to a tearful end.

There was bewilderment in my son's voice as he told me the story when I came home from work that night. "He didn't even say he was sorry," Jon said. He paused, then he added: "He's an Eagle Scout, Dad. Eagles aren't supposed to do stuff like that, are they?"

Right about here is where Ward would have taken a deep draw on his pipe and come up with the perfect words to diffuse the situation. But I was too busy deciding how I felt. I was angry that a teenager had bullied these little boys, and I was concerned for their safety. But I didn't want to overreact toward a young man who I knew well and who had earned my trust. So what priceless gem of advice did I finally come up with? It went something like this: "Let me know if anything like that happens again and I'll talk to his parents."

Somehow, I can't help but think Ward would have handled it differently.

He would have calmly explained that while it's true that Eagle Scouts should know better, sometimes they, like the rest of us, suffer lapses in judgment. Like the rest of us, they are human, and will sometimes make mistakes. Perhaps Ward would have added that the same can be said of police officers, politicians, doctors and, for that matter, columnists.

In every walk of life there are individuals who do dumb things, and should know better. But like Mom and the Osmonds used to say, one bad apple doesn't spoil the whole bushel. One momentarily grounded Eagle Scout doesn't mean other Eagles can't soar. One overbearing police officer doesn't bring dishonor to the entire law enforcement community. One immoral politician doesn't make all politicians untrustworthy. And a fallen religious leader doesn't mean the fall of religion. Ultimately, we have to learn to accept people for who they are, not for what they do or the organizations and individuals with whom they associate.

That's what Ward would have said. And I think the Beaver would have understood.

So, I hope, will Jon - even if I don't smoke a pipe.

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--- © Joseph Walker


Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through and