BY DIANE DIMOND
Some of us need laws to keep our behavior in check. Others just know the right thing to do.
I do an awful lot of writing about the laws of this land and people who break them. This time, I want to write about the lesson learned from an honorable 17-year-old who lives in Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania. Only the law of innate good character was involved.
His name is Ben Moser, and he’s the quarterback of his high-school football team. His story tells you all you need to know about this young man.
When Ben was in the second grade, one of his classmates was Mary Lapkowicz, a pretty, petite girl who happened to have been born with Down syndrome. Ben and Mary became fast friends. His teachers report that the boy constantly watched out for Mary both in class and outside during recess. Ben always insisted on including Mary when he spotted her shying away on the sidelines.
In fourth grade, after watching a cousin preparing for prom, little Ben asked his mother, “Do kids like Mary go to prom?” And his mother said, “Sure, honey, if someone asks them.” According to Lisa Moser, her son immediately and resolutely declared, “Well, you know what? I’m going to take Mary to prom.”
A couple of years later, Mary and her family moved to another Pennsylvania town, and the two young friends lost touch.
Flash-forward several years to when Ben’s Susquehanna High School traveled to Mary’s Central Dauphin High School for a football showdown. Ben spotted Mary on the sidelines, working with her dad and helping out with her team’s equipment. As the two old elementary-school chums caught up, Ben quietly remembered his vow made seven years earlier.
“I’m going to take Mary to prom.”
His “prom-posal” to Mary, which came shortly after that field-side catch-up session, included a fistful of pink and silver Mylar balloons on which he wrote, “Prom?”
The pictures taken of the couple on the night of the dance say it all. The towering Ben, in a tuxedo and lavender vest that matched the color of Mary’s full-length gown, brought his prom date a white rose wrist corsage. She gave him a matching boutonniere. A video camera captured the pair posing for pictures, and Ben was asked to say a few words.
“There shouldn’t be a barrier between somebody who doesn’t have Down syndrome or not,” he said in his understated way. “You should just be who you are.”
With a shrug of his shoulders, he added, “Do what’s right. Simple.”
Yes. It is just that simple. That prom date didn’t happen because Ben felt sorry for Mary. It didn’t happen because Ben’s mother had pushed him to keep his long-ago promise. It happened because this young man has integrity. He wanted to take his childhood friend to the dance and to live up to his pledge.
This story made me wonder what might happen if the rest of us just followed that simple creed. Do what’s right — not for ourselves but for others.
I think of the countless other young people in this country who need to hear and embrace Ben’s lesson — those who turn to crime or drugs or see their own victimization at every turn instead of the opportunities in front of them.
Imagine what this country could be if elected politicians, government workers, bankers, businesspeople, health care workers, teachers, police officers and students kept in mind the needs of others. Imagine the recent crises that could have been avoided if we were guided by Ben’s principle — the mortgage collapse and resulting economic crisis, the paralyzing political divisiveness we now have in this country and the recent violence masked as civil rights protests, to name a few examples.
Imagine what we could be — how strong and united we would be — if we finally laid down the petty bickering, the self-aggrandizement and greed and decided that we don’t need to pass more laws to control one another but rather should just “do what’s right.”
My husband says I’m a dreamer. Maybe I am. But if more parents were raising children like Ben Moser, this country’s future would be brighter.
Moser is about halfway to the age when he could run for president of the United States. I wonder what he’ll be doing in the 2032 election year.
Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at www.DianeDimond.net or reach her via email Diane@DianeDimond.net