Sunday, October 7, 2012

Hit and runs and why me

Tonight I’ve been trying to rev up my outrage about hit-and-runs. Even though a hit-and-run driver took Dustin’s life and changed my life forever, it gets tiring to hold onto the anger all the time. If I think about it too much, I get depressed and hopeless and don’t want to get out of bed. Or at least out of the house. So, sometimes I don’t think about it enough and when I do that, the importance of increasing awareness of the epidemic of hit-and-run and the need to change the laws fades into the background. Life is certainly easier when I’m not letting myself think about it. 

However, something inevitably reminds me of Dustin and then that reminds me of what happened and then I feel angry and/or sad. Then as I’m thinking more of Dustin, I think of all the things I learned about him after he died and all the things I understood better about him, and that motivates me to be like him. 

(I want to say “my son” here, that I want to be like “my son,” but doing so would make me feel as though I’m trying to own his accomplishments somehow. What he did, the way he conducted himself, was his achievement and not mine. I’ve found that when mourning, the tendency is to make the loved one more personal to oneself by referring to him or her by the relationship rather than by his or her name.  But I digress [he would use the word digress, I know he would]).


I want to be like Dustin because he was focused. He was determined. He knew what he wanted and he did what he had to do to get it. He dedicated his time, his money, his voice, his very person to what he believed in and what he thought was right. And what I find so very amazing about this, the utmost in inspiring, is that this was new to him. Oh, he’d certainly had times that he made up his mind about something and stuck to it and learned everything he could, but it had all only really involved himself. He learned about Native Americans when he was a young teenager, he taught himself German, that type of thing. But sometime in 2010, a little over a year before he was killed, his “potential exploded” (thanks for the description, James), and he was a changed man. I remember him once telling me he wished I’d taught him to be more assertive; I told him I couldn’t teach him what I didn’t know myself. And then seemingly overnight, he was assertive. He was outspoken. He said what he thought and didn’t apologize for it - probably in large part because he always made sure that he had his facts straight before he spoke. 

And he gave. He supported Planned Parenthood, MercyCorps, Greenpeace, Prostate Cancer research, and OPB with monthly monetary donations. He supported numerous freethought groups, community events, and a homeless shelter with funds and his time.

Dustin (on left) in the Portland Gay Pride Parade, wearing the t-shirt he designed.
Other than the fact that he attended groups and had become a board member of the Columbia chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, nobody knew he was doing all those other things. I was astounded when I found out, especially the money part. He was an unemployed full time college student living only on his student loans. Not even food stamps (unemployed college students don’t qualify for food stamps unless they have kids or are over 49 or disabled).

So, yes, I want to be like Dustin. Dedicated. Determined. Courageous. Compassionate. I want to make a difference and that difference will be for Dustin. Well, not only for. Because of. And that is why I am going to do my part, hopefully a big part, in revealing the hidden epidemic of hit-and-run

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