Tuesday Time-Waster: Grinch

Today’s 11:11 time-waster is, in my opinion, not a time-waster — regardless of whether you’re a runner or your opinions on the causes of autism. It’s the story of a fundraiser that got shut down by someone who decided, “If I can’t do a much bigger version of what they’re doing, they can’t do it, either.”

The fundraiser was the day after Christmas. It’s named for Jack, a rather cute little 8-year-old boy. And the person who became the Grinch was none other than a lawyer. How’s that for a trifecta? (For the record, over the years I’ve actually entertained the idea of law school and I know a number of lawyers. Some of them are really great people, and some of them are the opposite.)

Here’s a blog post that sums up the whole matter. It was written almost two weeks ago, and I waited to see the comments. I’ve read them all, including the rebuttals from the Grinch. He didn’t help himself at all, so for his professional sake I hope he does better live in the courtroom.

Here’s the brief version: Sam is a husband and father who created Operation Jack, a non-profit whose proceeds go to autism awareness and research. We’ve chatted online, via text and email, and have met in person several times. A while back, Sam lost a whole bunch of weight and took up running, then discovered that he could run pretty quickly. Last year, he ran 61 marathons with the sole goal of raising money for Operation Jack. The last marathon was near his home and named the Operation Jack Marathon, and there were simultaneous satellite runs around the country.

This year the Operation Jack Marathon was held again, and there were satellite runs again. Basically, that means that groups of people got together across the country to run some miles. They ran in Jack’s honor and they donated some money. Some people ran solo. Some got a few friends together. In Houston, a few friends planned to run in a public park. Then word began spreading online, and suddenly 29 people were going to gather at that park in Houston on the morning after Christmas. (This is nothing compared to the 40+ people I used to run with in a town with a population of 60,000.)

Enter the Grinch. It turns out that some people in Houston have been trying to get city permission to hold a race in that park, but they’ve been turned down. When they heard that some other local residents were organizing a run in the park, they got mad. Days before the race, they complained to city officials. Those city officials then told the Operation Jack runners that, because city officials now knew about the event, they couldn’t run. Fortunately the Operation Jack runners found another location in another part of the city. But some runners couldn’t make it to the new location, and Sam refunded their donations — to the tune of $500.

The thing is, the Grinch missed a golden opportunity. Next time he tried to get a permit to hold an official race, he could have pointed to this little Operation Jack run as a success. Instead, he became the tattle-tale that no authority figure likes but must listen to. In other words, the next time this Grinch applies for a permit, city officials will think, “Yeah, this is the guy who shut down that little charity run at Christmas.”

I have run in, volunteered at, and helped organize a number of races of all distances and sizes. I know what goes on behind the scenes. Due to my former job, I also know what goes on behind the scenes in city offices. Let’s just say that I am a bit amused by the fact that this Grinch and his cohorts have been denied permits. There are always reasons.

I actually feel a little sorry for this Grinch. For one thing, he lost a golden opportunity. For another thing, he can’t research very well. And, to top it off, he spends his days defending drunken drivers. I’m a firm believer in “innocent until proven guilty,” but I also know that the only way to get out of a drunken driving conviction is on a technicality or if police messed up. In other words, almost every single one of the Grinch’s clients really was out driving drunkenly on the roads, and any one of them could have run over his loved ones — and he’s tasked with the job of defending them. No wonder he decided to direct his lawyer ways at a little group of 29 people who wanted to run on the day after Christmas. It’s how grinches operate.