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home : columns : dear harriette January 25, 2020

11/27/2019 7:17:00 AM
Friend wants to pull daughter from team after accident

DEAR HARRIETTE: My friend has a daughter who is a gymnast. She is on scholarship at her college for gymnastics, and she is very good at it.

The other day at practice, one of her teammates slipped and fell and ultimately died from her injuries. We are all reeling at this awful situation. She was a beautiful young woman, and it's hard to wrap our heads around what happened. I know my friend is thinking about pulling his daughter from the team, but no decision is easy now. How can I support my friend as he and his family deal with this tragedy? -- Support in Grief

DEAR SUPPORT IN GRIEF: This tragedy represents one of the greatest fears that parents have for their athletic children. Research suggests that gymnastics is a dangerous sport. According to Elsevier Global Medical News, gymnasts experience 4.8 injuries per 1,000 annually, a figure that compares to contact sports such as hockey and basketball. Still, most gymnasts suffer survivable injuries.

For your friend, this is a time of shock and contemplation. On one hand, he probably wants to take his daughter out of harm's way entirely, but hopefully he won't make a decision just yet. Now is the time for mourning. I'm sure the coaches and school are providing counseling services for the students. Perhaps your friend could benefit from grief counseling, too.

For your part, be a good listener. Do your best not to share your opinion. This is a decision that his family has to make, and it probably feels impossible to address right now. Offer love, compassion and a listening ear. If asked for your opinion, deflect and say that you just want to support his family. You do not know what's best.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was talking to a new friend, and during our mostly pleasant conversation, she started comparing herself and her life to characters in old movies. I don't know if she realized it, but some of her references were outright racist. She doesn't come off as a racist person, but wanting a house and life like that in "Gone With the Wind," where the plantation Tara was considered a prize, reeks of our racist past. To long for a time and a home that required the labor of slaves is horrific to me. I didn't say anything to her, but I wonder if I should. I like this woman and wonder if she is so lost in her dream that she doesn't realize the context that would allow it to exist. -- Teachable Moment

DEAR TEACHABLE MOMENT: If you care about this woman and believe that she might be able to hear your observations, make time to talk to her face-to-face. Tell her that you were thinking about her comments about wanting a property and life like Tara, and it was offensive to you. Explain to her that you know she was fantasizing, but point out that her fantasy is reliant upon a lifestyle that required the enslavement of other people. Since your friend loves old movies, remind her that "Gone With the Wind" was set during the Civil War and Reconstruction, times in our culture that were woefully unfair to many citizens.

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