Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Oh Deer

TigerBlog sees deer all the time.

They're everywhere in the greater Princeton metropolitan area. Big ones. Baby ones.

Usually they stand on the side of the road and look out at the cars, with a sort of "deer in the headlights" look to them. Every now and then, they dart across the road, often causing panic among drives.

TigerBlog actually hit a deer once. It was a long time ago, like in 1988 or so. Well, not or so. Actually, it was March 1988, to be exact.

TB was in his relatively new Pontiac Grand Am, the second of two Grand Ams he would buy. The first was sort of reddish; the new one was black.

It was at night, and TB was driving on 95 near the Route 31 exit in Pennington when a deer came sprinting across the highway. His old friend Tom Murphy - TB hasn't heard from him in 20 years or so - was with him, and TB didn't really see the deer. He more sensed the motion coming from his left across the southbound lanes and over the divider.

TB veered to the right just enough so that the deer slammed into his door at something of an angle and then bounced off, disappearing into the woods. TB pulled the car over and started cursing at the deer, who could be heard thrashing off in the distance.

Tom, who was as startled as TB, asked if he was okay and then said to go the police station to fill out a report (no cell phones at the time, of course, so they actually had to drive there). TB said he agreed, but first he wanted to sit there and yell "%^&$&!@#!" for a few more minutes.

The car wasn't too bad, except for the dent in the driver's side door, which was easily fixable at a body shop, and the deer guts, hair and blood all over the car, which still creeps TB out.

TigerBlog has always been wary of deer since, even as he has seen hundreds or thousands of them through the years.

Yesterday, TB heard someone talk about having seen a bunch of cars stopped in the road as a group of five deer were gathering. That's a common occurrence. The uncommon part was that one of the deer turned out to be an albino deer, one completely white one in the group.

TB looked this up and found that the odds of having an albino deer are approximately one in 42,500, with all of the genetic math added up. TB has never seen a white deer.

He's seen a black squirrel. A bunch of them actually. Princeton is famous for them. There's actually a website called

Princeton is also famous for its motto "In the Nation's Service and the Service of All Nations."

TB has seen almost as many examples of this in Princeton as he's seen deer and squirrels combined. There's a great one on right now.

Ryan Benitez is a junior goalie on the men's hockey team who spent eight weeks last summer in Nansana, Uganda, working with kids to improve their chances of getting through high school and on to college.

Think about that.

Here's a Princeton athlete from Denver who decided to spend the better part of his summer in Uganda trying to help people better their lives and try to get out of living conditions that most people in this country can't relate to. To do this, he had to go there and live in their conditions with them.

Know how many people do that in their lives? Not a lot. TB certainly never did.

Benitez' experiences there were amazing. TB loves this quote from the story:
“Their life is really hard. Between money, food, abuse. They recognize how hard life is but instead of being unhappy about it, like most Americans would be, they said that life is hard but I’m not going to drag anyone down with me, I’m going to be tough, I’m going to smile and work hard. Instead of being unhappy until their situation gets better, they choose to be joyful in their tough situation. To me this was a sign of toughness. I knew they were hungry and they weren’t complaining. It was an acting choice to be joyful despite imperfections.”

The most poignant parts of the story are the ones about the food, or lack of it, for the students he was there to help. Often the older kids would get less than the younger ones, and for many of them, the meal they got at school was the only one of the day.

Benitez told the story about how some of the students would give him food directly off of their plates if they had more than he did, even though they didn't have much. He called it "giving out of their poverty, instead of their wealth."

Benitez is getting ready for the start of another hockey season at Princeton. The kids he helped are thousands of miles away, but don't think for a minute that they have forgotten him or he has forgotten them.

No, his eight weeks in Uganda will stay with all of them forever. Because of him, there are kids in Uganda who have hope for a better life that they might otherwise never have had. How many people can say that they've had that kind of impact on strangers?

In the Nation's Service and the Service of All Nations.

It's way more a part of the fabric of Princeton than genetically mutated squirrels, as cute as they may be.

Ryan Benetiz is the latest example.

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