You Are the “They”

kleiberceremonyYesterday afternoon we had a ceremony to honor Austin Kleiber, a high school freshman, who last summer stopped a woman named KayLee Booth from stabbing another woman to death.  Booth had stabbed her victim in the leg which immobilized her, then in the chest, then through her arm and into her torso and then was poised to finish off her prey by going for the throat.

Austin, whose mother was friends with Booth, was at the house helping her move.  He saw Booth grab the knife and run out toward the victim.  He followed and was able to pull her away, likely saving the victim’s life.  There were two other adults present at the scene but it was this 15 year old young man who first stepped in.

So we had a ceremony yesterday to thank and honor him.  I was talking with someone before the ceremony who was talking about how nice it was that “they” did this for Austin.  I had to laugh to myself because there was no “they.”  It started with my idea, then the assistance of the City of Charlevoix Police Department, Libby Mikulski, our Charlevoix County Victim Advocate and Judge Richard M. Pajtas and his administrator, Melinda Morgan.

I don’t say this to brag about what we did.  My first thought about Austin, after the trial, was also that “someone” should do something for him.  Then it occurred to me that if I didn’t get involved, who would.  Of course I worried that it would not look right, with me leading the way.  What would others think?  But then I worried more about what it would say if no one did anything to recognize what this young man did.

Last night it occurred to me that this wasn’t all that different then the thoughts that must have raced through Austin’s mind.  He saw one person harming another.  He didn’t really know the victim.  He did know Booth as a friend.  It would have been so easy to sit back and say it’s really not my place.  What will people think if I jump in?  What if I get hurt?  Why don’t “they” just handle it?  The adults here, the police, anyone but me.

A lot of thoughts that probably rushed through his young mind very quickly, but then the realization that he had to act.

All of this brought to mind a conversation I had a couple of good friends over church business years ago.  One of them said that it was time that we stopped looking to other people to deal with church issues, and dealt with them ourselves.  We were on the church board but we were deferring to the older and wiser members.  He said we weren’t doing our jobs if we did that.

It was then I first thought when it comes to a lot of things, there is no “they.”  If you want things to change or things to happen, you have to realize that you are the “they.”  Austin Kleiber knows that already.

About Allen Telgenhof

Allen Telgenhof is the Charlevoix County Prosecuting Attorney; beginning his 14th year of coaching high school baseball, now as varsity coach at Boyne Falls Public Schools. Graduated from Clio High School, Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Father of four great children, ages 27, 25, 20 and 19.
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